Minister for Transport Shane Ross has warned he will not reinstate funding for the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) until it cuts ties with shamed ticketing agents THG and implements reform.
Almost half a million euro in funding has been withheld for this year and last after after it was caught up in the Rio ticketing scandal and its then president Pat Hickey was arrested in Brazil.
The minister told the Oireachtas Committee on Sport it was clear from a judge-led inquiry into the scandal, that Pat Hickey had run his own “fiefdom” and the OCI let him.
“The flagship of Irish sport was very much in the hands of one man.”
The minister outlined events leading up to arrests in Brazil during the Olympics and the subsequent decision to hold an inquiry.
There was criticism this week that, while the report uncovered the chaotic handling of tickets and a lack of governance at the OCI, many individuals refused to co-operate. Mr Hickey and others claimed it could prejudice investigations in Brazil.
Mr Ross said that, prior to the ticketing scandal, no concern was expressed about the OCI.
This changed when Irish businessman Kevin Mallon, with ticketing agents THG, was arrested in Rio. It emerged tickets linked to allegations of touting were assigned to the OCI.
Mr Ross had found attempts to make inquiries blocked by Mr Hickey. The OCI president was subsequently arrested, which prompted the Government to set up an inquiry.
Mr Ross told the committee the Moran report outlined “shambolic” behaviour towards athletes from OCI and agents Pro10, who were a front for THG. THG had been banned from Rio.
Mr Ross said the department wanted to resume funding for the OCI “provided we get the answers that are necessary”.
His department told the Irish Examiner that €130,000 last year and another €360,000 this year have not been approved.
Mr Ross said the OCI must reform and get outstanding issues around records of ticket deals or “reconciliation payments” resolved.
OCI president Sarah Keane maintains her predecessor secretly tied the council into contracts with THG until the 2026 Olympics. This only emerged this week and the OCI is trying to exit these.
Mr Ross added: “We need a clear line of acceptable behaviour, a code of governance. We would certainly not like to fund them if there are outstanding issues which are a legacy of this controversy.”
Committee hearings resume today. Members will also discuss whether to compel Mr Hickey to attend.
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