Government to reimburse Olympic Council’s 2016 payment

Shane Ross meets with OCI to discuss funds, with ongoing talks over 2017 payment

Minister for Sport Shane Ross said he was impressed by the work done by the new OCI board and its real commitment to reform.   Photograph:  Barbara Lindberg

Minister for Sport Shane Ross said he was impressed by the work done by the new OCI board and its real commitment to reform. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg

 

The Government is to reimburse the Olympic Council of Ireland its funding for 2016 but has made no commitment on this year’s money.

Minister for Transport Shane Ross met the organisation on Tuesday evening to discuss the continued suspension of Government funds and its effect on the OCI’s ability to conduct its work.

After the meeting, which lasted two hours, Mr Ross confirmed the funding due since it was withdrawn in August last year will be returned.

The funds, worth in the region of €100,000, had been suspended since the arrest of former OCI president Pat Hickey in Brazil amid allegations of ticket touting during the Rio Olympics.

The Minister said the organisation had proved the money was spent on athlete-related activities and therefore could be reimbursed.

Mr Ross told The Irish Times he would continue to engage with the OCI and Sports Ireland about the 2017 allocation. However, it remained his position that all outstanding legacy issues must be resolved before the funding resumes.

Termination

In particular the Minister is seeking a termination of a contract between the OCI and British ticketing firm THG.

It emerged recently that the organisation had been tied into an agreement with the firm until 2026 despite it being rejected as the official ticket reseller for the 2016 and 2018 Olympic Games.

The OCI said the contract was signed by Mr Hickey without the consent or knowledge of the board.

President of the organisation Sarah Keane said the deal appears watertight but confirmed the OCI is examining ways to break the contract.

Mr Ross said he was impressed by the work done by the new OCI board and its real commitment to reform.

We are pleased that the 2016 funding will now be released. We will continue to vigorously pursue our reform agenda

While there is an eagerness to restore the money, the Government had to be sure all historical issues are dealt with, Mr Ross added.

The Government’s annual funding to the OCI is worth €520,000. Without it, the organisation has stressed its preparations for the upcoming Olympic games will suffer.

Productive

A spokeswoman for the OCI said the meeting with Mr Ross was productive and positive.

“We are pleased that the 2016 funding will now be released. We will continue to vigorously pursue our reform agenda and we will work closely with the Department and Sport Ireland to ensure 2017 funding is restored as quickly as possible.”

The decision of Mr Hickey to stand aside from the International Olympic Council resolves a significant issue for the OCI. Had he remained a member he would have been entitled to attend OCI board meetings as an ex-officio member.

The remaining sticking point is the issue of the contract, which only came to light after the publication of an inquiry into the ticket touting controversy by Mr Justice Carroll Moran.

The retired judge’s report was critical of the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG, claiming they sought to protect their own commercial interests over the concerns of athletes.

The OCI said it only became aware of the contract when Ms Keane met Mr Hickey in April this year. The deal allows THG to act as the official ticket agent for the summer and winter Olympic Games in 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026.