Ross to carry out ‘robust inquiry’ into Olympic tickets
Minister for Sport concerned there was ‘no independent investigation’ into matter
Olympic tickets allegedly seized from Kevin Mallon of THG Sports are displayed during a press conference last Monday. Photograph: Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images
Minister for Sport Shane Ross said he is going to carry out a “ very robust inquiry” after tickets earmarked for the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) were embroiled in an alleged illegal touting scandal.
Mr Ross said he was concerned that there was “no independent investigation” into the matter.
The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has said it was investigating how an Irish man arrested in Brazil was allegedly selling tickets earmarked for the organisation. Kevin Mallon was picked up at a hotel near the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, along with a translator last Friday.
The OCI is investigating how Mr Mallon came to have the tickets, which were for high-profile events, including the opening and closing ceremonies, and were allegedly being sold for more than face value.
“ It is absolutely essential that they are independently investigated as well because, just say the questions turn around toward the OCI , the OCI will be investigating itself,” Mr Ross told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“I am reassured to some extent to know that they [OCI]are now active in doing what is necessary which is yielding to pressure which is coming from here. What I’m not happy about is the make up of the committee.”
Mr Ross said the independence of the OCI committee was “something we should look at”. “It appears that the committee looking into this consists of the vice president of the OCI, the secretary general of the OCI, they are approved by the executive committee of the OCI,” he said.
Mr Ross said he is going to meet OCI president Pat Hickey when he arrives in Rio this weekend . He will ask him “if he’ll consider having an independent member sit on his committee or two independent members sit on his committee, whether someone from my department or a journalist, to see that this investigation is a satisfactory independent and rigorous investigation”.
Mr Ross said that if the investigation is “not satisfactory in the first place then serious questions will have to be answered”.
Not ruling out Government investigating
He said the Government was not “ ruling out in any way investigating it ourselves.”
“But we do have to be mindful that there are three investigations going on at the moment and one criminal investigation, so we have to make our own assessment based on that, based on my investigations when I get to Rio on Sunday and on reports being made by my official who is out there.”
“My official will be present with me when I am talking to Pat Hickey when we make that assessment, we will make a decision on whether it’s doing a full investigation as well.”
Mr Ross said he wanted to know from Mr Hickey “ whether all the tickets earmarked for Ireland went to the ATR [authorised ticket reseller] or whether they went elsewhere. I want to know how the committee was picked to investigate this,” he said. He also wanted to “look at the contract so will know what terms were.”
He welcomed Pat Hickey speaking about the matter yesterday. He said it was “absolutely necessary that he did so”.
Mr Ross said the situation “still remains confusing” and it was “difficult to know how many investigations are going on” as there seemed to be one by th OCI, Rio 2016, maybe the international committee and the Brazilian police investigation.
“What we have to do now is make an assessment now as to whether these enquiries are adequate to satisfy the dissatisfaction of the Irish people about what’s been happening,” he said.
Mr Ross was also asked what he made of the manner in which the results of the failed drug test for Irish boxer Michael O’Reilly were leaked to the press “I don’t understand it. I think it’s a great pity that anything like that should have hit the public in a disorganised way” he said.
“I suspect that a large number of people knew it and that is what happens in these situations,” he said.
He said he had “no idea how that got into the media at all”
Pat Hickey interview
Speaking on Thursday night, Mr Hickey said the OCI moved quickly to investigate the circumstances surrounding the matter.
“We immediately assembled a committee to investigate the whole event,” he said.
“We then moved very fast to write to the Brazilian authorities in Rio 2016 to ask them to send us all the necessary documentation and any evidence they have.
“Secondly, we have written to the International Olympic Committee to ask them to do the same thing.
“We have also informed them that if an authorised ticket reseller has transgressed any of the contracts they signed or treated anything in a wrong way, that they should take action.”
Mr Mallon is the Dublin finance director of UK company THG Sports, which was a ticketseller for the OCI during previous Olympic Games, but is not listed as one for Rio 2016.
A company called Pro 10 was appointed to the role for the OCI for the Rio Games.
“We have started to investigate our own ticket agent Pro 10,” Mr Hickey told RTÉ News.
“We have a whole series of questions to be answered there. We are working very diligently to assemble this report.
“We need to be careful until we have all the evidence gathered. There could be legal issues. The person in prison at the moment could be found to be not guilty. We are actively collecting all the information.”
Mr Hickey said that he “wasn’t very happy” that the OCI were embroiled in the scandal.
“This is why we are trying to find out how this happened,” he said. “Did it happen in a legal or illegal way? We don’t handle the tickets whatsoever. The tickets are issued to Pro 10 by Rio 2016.
“I have never met Kevin Mallon and I don’t know anything about him. When I heard the reports, I thought he was based in the UK. To my knowledge, none of the staff of the OCI have met him.
“What I can tell you very clearly is that there has been no impropriety whatsoever from anyone within the OCI or myself in the dealing of tickets.
“The International Olympic Committee will conduct a review and I’m fully expecting the OCI will come out with a clean bill of health.”