The deals were signed without the knowledge of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) board, it was claimed by Mr Hickey’s successor.
The news comes as figures show the fall-out of the Rio ticket scandal has cost the embattled sports body €1.5m, including covering Mr Hickey’s legal fees and accommodation costs in Brazil.
New OCI president Sarah Keane told a press conference the two deals were signed with ticket firm THG, owned by millionaire Marcus Evans, on the same day in January 2016 but only came to light in recent weeks. She was speaking following the publication of the Judge Carroll Moran report into the Rio ticket scandal, which found Mr Hickey and Mr Evans had a “concealed relationship”.
It suggested they worked together after THG was rejected as an ‘authorised ticket reseller’ (ATR) for the Rio Games. Judge Moran reported that the company which ultimately handled Ireland’s ticket allocation, Pro10, “was not a genuine ATR but its involvement disguised the continuing role of THG and Marcus Evans as the real or de facto ATR”.
In the report:
- Mr Hickey was criticised by Judge Moran for comments he made to RTÉ News in Rio which claimed the OCI had severed its links with THG after the Sochi Games in February 2014.
“This account is difficult to reconcile with his relationship with Marcus Evans and THG, as is shown by the volume of e-mails between the parties and the information given to the inquiry by contributors,” Judge Moran concluded;
- It was found Pro10 won the OCI ticketing contract for the Brazil Games but it was a front for THG and “disguised” its continued role after the firm owned by Mr Evans was originally rejected by Rio as seller;
- Mr Hickey and THG owner Mr Evans had a “longstanding relationship”. However, the OCI board was not informed of the ticket deal for Pro10 or even the rejection of THG by Rio as agents;
- The inquiry said Pro10 provided an “ineffective and chaotic” ticketing service for Rio that resulted in many complaints from athletes, relatives, and the public;
- There was also “a lack of transparency” on ticketing from Pro10 as well as the Olympic Council of Ireland;
- The report says the refusal by several parties, including Mr Hickey, the International Olympic Committee, and THG among others to co-operate was a “major obstacle” for the inquiry.
Mr Hickey claimed the report contained “significant inaccuracies” but he was “pleased to see his good name” was cleared with no allegation of “criminality” and “financial impropriety”.
Revealing the two undisclosed ticket deals, Ms Keane said the OCI is tied to the controversial agency until 2026, despite THG being banned by the international Olympic body as an agent for the upcoming winter games in PyeongChang in 2018.
Ms Keane said: “It was not something that was discussed or advised to the board at any juncture.”
She declined to go into the details of the contract but described them as “pretty watertight”. She said the deals commit to “substantial” rights fees being paid if not unwound. The OCI’s legal team is currently studying the contracts to see if they can be broken.
Mr Hickey’s lawyer last night disputed Ms Keane’s claims, insisting she knew of the deals following a meeting with Mr Hickey after her election. However, a spokeswoman for Ms Keane said during that meeting, Mr Hickey only made mention of deals up to 2018, adding that documents relating to them would be in existence in the head office of the OCI.
Yet when searched for, no documents were found and the two deals stretching out to 2026 only came to light in recent weeks, she said.
Sports Minister Shane Ross and the OCI face a grilling at the Oireachtas Sports Committee on Thursday. Mr Ross said it was “regrettable” that so many key parties had chosen not to co-operate with the inquiry, which cost €300,000. Neither Pro 10 nor THG commented in response to the report.