An Olympics ticket controversy that is embarrassing for Ireland and its reputation on the international stage
Lack of clarity on sales is a matter of public interest for which the Irish Olympic Committee should be held answerable
It is encouraging, although perhaps surprising, to find in an industry as associated in the public mind with cut-throat competition as the ticket hospitality business, that rival companies should assist each other and each others’ clients at no charge.
The pickle that THG , its director Kevin Mallon, and now arrested Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) chairman Pat Hickey find themselves in in Rio is apparently the unfortunate result of the company’s selfless altruism in acting as a free post box for its rival, and inheritor of the Irish Olympic ticket franchise, Pro10. And, we are told, of an overzealous Brazilian police determined to favour local ticket sellers. The whole business, it appears, is populated by people anxious to help others out.
But the arrests are desperately embarassing for Ireland and its reputation on the international stage.
Minister for Sport, Shane Ross, has thrown himself into unravelling the story of the Pro10 contract with the Irish Olympic Committee (IOC). He is right to insist that this is a matter of public interest for which the IOC should be held answerable.
The right to sell some €3 million tickets allocated to Ireland is a valuable privilege whose gift by the OCI we are entitled to scrutinise – not least because the OCI has been a recipient of €1.7 million in public funds in the last four years. And we are here concerned not just with the conduct of THG and Pro10, but that of the OCI itself.
Ross is right to demand an independent representative on the OCI’s inquiry for which there can be no legal impediment. Was the contract put out to tender? On what terms? Was there not in the contract a requirement on Pro10 to have a representative on the ground in Rio to distribute tickets? If not, why not?
Did Pro10 inform the IOC that it was its intention to use the unpaid services of THG to help distribute its tickets? To the point of even forwarding inquiry phone calls automatically to the latter’s phone?
Presumably the OCI and International Olympic Committee (IOC) might have been interested in the involvement, however peripheral, of a company which had previously held its ticket franchise for the London and the Sochi games.
But which had blotted its copy book with the IOC in Rio in 2014 when its chief executive was arrested at the World Cup for ticket touting. And which had apparently declined even to apply for the ticket franchise for the Rio games, although it would appear to have had every intention to be represented there, for whatever reason.
The attempts by Brazil to root out the parasitic ticket touts from international sport is a worthy objective. Its legal prohibition on ticket gouging should be supported. It would be a a sorry day were it to be found that the OCI, THG or Pro10 attempted to circumvent such efforts.