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OFI attempts to leave Rio behind as it names new ticket reseller

Sarah Keane says federation is ‘walking the walk’ as it outlines plans for Tokyo 2020

Olympic Federation of Ireland president Sarah Keane announced the Finland-based Elamys Group would be the authorised ticket reseller for the Tokyo tournament. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) has taken another step towards distancing itself from the old Olympics regime and the ticket-touting scandal that embroiled the Rio tournament.

President Sarah Keane, who on Tuesday announced details of the federation’s “Athlete First” plans and a new authorised ticket reseller, was not unaware of the Rio ghosts in the room. Her drive since gaining the presidency in 2017 has been to reboot the organisation’s brand following the arrest of her predecessor Pat Hickey in 2016.

“From a legacy perspective and from being beyond reproach, this was crucial,” said Keane in explaining why the OFI have doubled staff resources over the last year to promote athletes.

Ostensibly, the announcement at the Sport Ireland Institute was to sign an agreement with officials from the Japanese city of Fukuroi, the location of Team Ireland’s Tokyo 2020 pre-Games training camp and to introduce the Elamys Group as Ireland’s new ticket reseller.

The Chef de Mission Patricia Heberle also announced that Gavin Noble and Liam Harbison would be her deputies. Noble came 23rd in the men’s triathlon at the London 2012 Olympics.

Normally a ticketing company would not receive much oxygen but after events in Rio the federation terminated their contract with former agency THG in relation to the next three Olympic Games.

“We are now walking the walk and not just talking the talk,” added Keane as she outlined the significant due diligence employed by Grant Thornton before the Finland-based Elamys Group was chosen to resell Irish tickets.

“This is not about money. There is no fee in it for us,” added Keane, who explained there would never again be an official from the OFI in possession of bundles of Olympics tickets, which were due to be sold to the public.

“We will not be anywhere near tickets to the general public. Elamys will be distributing all those directly. We will be distributing the sponsor tickets and if we do purchase them for Sport Ireland or the board or whoever else, they will come through us. But we should not be anywhere near any tickets to the public in any shape or form.

“When an athlete competes they will be entitled to two tickets in every sport except swimming, where it is one. That’s the way the system is set up. The OFI do not get tickets free of charge and the tickets are expected to be reasonably priced,” she said.

The mark up on tickets will be capped at 20 per cent with the commission being 50:50 between Elamys and the OFI with the OFI portion going towards the cost of athlete camps. Tickets sold as packages will have the same mark up. There is expected to be an announcement about the purchase of tickets in May with global ticket sales planned for June 14th.

Olympic athletes will also stay in the same hotel for their pre-tournament camp that the Ireland rugby team will use before their clash with Japan in the 2019 Rugby World Cup on September 28th in Ecopa Stadium.

The OFI and the IRFU have already made contact and the federation will receive a debrief from the IRFU on the hotel, Fukuroi’s transport infrastructure and a host of other issues surrounding team needs for the stay following the Rugby World Cup. The city is less than two hours from Tokyo by bullet train.

“There is going to be a challenge around tickets more so than Rio because this is massive,” warned Keane. “The Rugby World Cup is a big deal for Japan but nothing like the Olympic Games.”

OFI chief executive Peter Sherrard added that while the federation is making good progress and has a strong working relationship with the International Olympic Committee it will never be complacent on governance. It is, acknowledged Keane, a hot topic and will continue to be.

“For us it is still very live regardless of what is happening elsewhere,” she said. “For us it is just an ongoing piece as Peter said.”