OCI Ticketing Scandal: Ireland Inquiry

Labor party leader Brendan Howlin said a statutory inquiry, compelling all involved to cooperate, was necessary to thoroughly deal with an alleged ticket scalping scheme involving executives of the Olympic Council of Ireland, THG Sports and Pro10 Sports Management. 

Photo: AP Photo / Felipe Dana, File
Tickets to the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro recently became available for the cheap as organizers opened up the local ticketing site to the public.

“Under the OCI’s constitution its members are precluded from sharing information with a non-statutory investigation,” the Irish Times reported.

However, full cooperation is deemed necessary by authorities – Irish as well as Brazilian – to be able to answer many questions that remain in the alleged scalping plot presumably carried out by the OCI, Pro10, which was the authorized ticket reseller for the Rio Olympics, and THG, which had been banned from selling tickets at the 2016 Olympic Games, according to the Irish Examiner.

The reason for this ban, according to Rio police, is that THG was also involved in an alleged ticket-scalping scheme during the 2014 World Cup.

Rio’s police force arrested THG’s Kevin James Mallon and his interpreter on July 5, the opening day of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On Aug.17, Patrick Hickey, then still OCI president – he has since stepped down – was arrested for conspiracy charges, ticket scalping and ambush marketing. He will be detained while the investigation continues. This could take a while, since Rio’s courts accumulated a backlog of cases after going on holiday on Aug. 5, according to thejournal.ie.

Hickey’s case will only be heard after those lodged before his. Meanwhile, police in Rio held a press conference, during which they made excerpts of email conversations between Hickey and THG owner Marcus Evans available. The exchange dates back to 2010 and, according to police, “discussed the sale of tickets allocated to the OCI. Officers believe a hospitality program was established to ‘disguise touting.’”

There is a law in Brazil banning ticket touting. Three other OCI executives present in Rio had their passports seized on Aug. 21: Kevin Kilty, Stephen Martin and Dermot Henihan. Henihan has since received his ID back and was allowed to leave the country.

Other people Rio’s authorities intend to question are acting OCI president Willie O’Brien, OCI executive and chief executive of the FAI John Delaney as well as personal assistant to the OCI president Linda O’Reilly. OCI released a statement Aug.22, after its executive committee had met for the first time in person since the start of the games. It appointed “a three person crisis management subcommittee to lead the Council’s response to the recent events in Rio.

This group comprises Sarah Keane (Swim Ireland), Prof Ciaran O’Cathain (Athletics Ireland) and Robert Norwood (Snowsports Association of Ireland). Authorized reseller Pro10 released a statement saying, that “in the light of extensive and misleading media coverage in Ireland and in Brazil on the Rio 16 ticketing story, the directors of Pro10 Sports Management wish to make clear that they have always acted properly and fully in line with the ATR guidelines.

The possible scope of the alleged fraud, the uncertainty of who was involved, the backlog at Rio’s courts, as well as the fact that Brazil’s authorities operate under a different legal system than the Irish suggests that the case will drag on for quite some time.