Pat Hickey signed OCI contracts with THG until 2026

Committee members only became aware of ‘watertight’ deal in ‘recent weeks’

Former Olympic Council of Ireland president Pat Hickey signed a contract last year allowing hospitality group THG to resell tickets for Ireland until 2026, his successor has said. The contract was signed by Mr Hickey in January 2016.

The organisers of the 2016 Rio Games had rejected THG, which is owned by businessman Marcus Evans, as a reseller because of suspicions it was involved in ticket touting.

The relationship between Mr Hickey and THG was also criticised in the report released on Monday into the Rio ticketing scandal by retired judge Carroll Moran. Mr Moran said Mr Hickey's and THG's relationship was long-standing and to their mutual benefit.

Details of the contract was announced on Monday afternoon by current OCI president Sarah Keane. Ms Keane said the agreement was not brought before the committee for discussion at the time and that members only became aware of it in recent weeks.


She said the Council “didn’t even have a signed agreement in the office.”

The organising committee for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea has now withdrawn permission for THG to sell tickets for Ireland for those games.

In a letter sent to the OCI the PyeongChang Organising Committee said it had become aware of allegations that THG was involved in the attempted illegal resale of tickets in Rio.

“We see such allegations against THG’s executives as a serious problem, since this incident raised doubts on THG’s ability as an [Authorised Ticket Reseller] to act fairly in reselling tickets.”

The Organising Committee said it is withdrawing permission for THG to act as a reseller for Ireland.

Significant problems

The decision presents several significant problems for the OCI, the most urgent being who will handle ticket sales for the Winter Olympics.

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee has yet to make a decision on whether THG will be allowed to sell tickets for those games, but Ms Keane said she thinks it will reach a similar decision.

The OCI also faces potential legal issues because the contract Mr Hickey agreed with THG covers Summer and Winter Olympic Games in 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026. Ms Keane indicated the OCI would like to get out of the contract but that she believes it is “pretty watertight”.

“This obviously presents the council quite a challenge going forward,” Ms Keane told a press conference.

She said lawyers for the OCI are currently reviewing the terms of the contract.

Ms Keane also revealed that Pro10, the company appointed by Mr Hickey as reseller for Rio, still owes the OCI a significant amount of money.

She said that Pro10 owes the OCI €50,000 from Rio ticket sales. She said THG likely also owes the OCI money from the London and Sochi games but that it is not clear how much. The OCI are considering using the accounting firm Grant Thorton to investigate the issue.

Mr Moran’s report found that Pro10 was set up to disguise the continuing role of THG in the Rio ticketing process.

Ms Keane said the OCI board was never told THG was rejected by the Rio organising committee or that Pro10 had been appointed in its place.

Ms Keane welcomed Mr Moran’s report and said it will be addressing the shortcomings it identified.

“It is the intention of the new executive committee to deliver a fit for purpose organisation that has athletes, transparency, accountability and governance at its core.

“The reputational and financial damage done to the organisation as a result of the Rio controversy has been immense. The new Executive Committee is committed to managing these issues, driving its reform agenda and rebuilding the organisation brick by brick. Irish Olympic sport deserves nothing less.”

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times