I am the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland and I am accompanied by Sarah O'Shea, who is the organisation's honorary general secretary.
We are here today to address this the committee, at its invitation, and we thank it for this, particularly as the new board of the OCI believes strongly in transparency and the need to address the issues that face us as openly as possible. We were both elected to the positions we hold in February of this year, together with ten other members of the new board. The chair of our new athletes commission recently joined the board, which brings our number to 13. We have had numerous meetings already and we have a fully functioning board united in our pursuit of a reformed OCI and also a love and passion for Irish Olympic sport.
The OCI is the Olympic representative body for the island of Ireland. As the national Olympic committee, of which there are 206 in the world, we adhere to the International Olympic Charter, which aims to promote the spirit of Olympism, develop high-performance sport, train sport administrators, assist in the fight against doping and work in partnership with the International Olympic Committee, IOC, and others, such as Sport Ireland, to further develop Olympic sport in Ireland. The IOC funds approximately 70% of our activities annually.
Our remit is much wider than the role of a "travel agent". We are responsible for managing and seeking to enhance the performance of Team Ireland at Olympic Games, both winter and summer, and at approximately six other European and world youth games during a four-year cycle, while at the same time developing the Olympic movement in Ireland. There is a small team of four employees at the OCI who work hard in the implementation of that to which I refer.
The new OCI board has been working hard since its election six months ago to drive a much needed rigorous reform agenda at the OCI. The board is committed to root-and-branch reform of the organisation, making it more athlete-centred and putting the highest governance standards in place. We are committed to the true values of the Olympic movement and we are determined to rebuild the reputation of the OCI in the eyes of both athletes and the Irish sporting public. That reputation which has taken a hammering over the past 12 months. The fallout from Rio has been reputationally and financially damaging for the organisation and its members, but we are determined to work hard to rebuild the OCI as an Olympic representative body of the highest standard.
We unreservedly apologise to Irish Olympians, coaches, families, member federations and others for the issues that arose in Rio and, indeed, for circumstances in which this detracted from the fantastic performances, both then and now, of many Irish athletes.
Following the election of the new OCI board in February, I, together with the officers of the OCI board, met the president and senior officials of the IOC to discuss the reform programme currently under way in the OCI. The IOC gave us its full support and is keen to see us rebuild the reputation of the organisation following a turbulent 12 months. We also met the European Olympic Committee, which is equally supportive of our future plans. Both bodies recognise the strong mandate given to the new board by our member federations in the February elections and again at our recent AGM. The new board also has a strong and positive working relationship with Sport Ireland and officials in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. We have been keeping them updated on progress with regard to our reform agenda.
The OCI board welcomed the publication of Mr. Justice Moran’s report earlier this week. I wish to make it clear that the new board of the OCI and its staff fully co-operated with the Moran inquiry and passed all documentation requested to it. I attended the inquiry on several occasions. We accept Mr. Justice Moran's findings, and we will consider the report and its recommendations in full at our next board meeting later this month. The board at its next and following meetings will have to consider numerous matters of detail arising out of the report. I do not, in this statement or in response to any questions later, want to pre-empt the board's discussions and decisions on these matters. For obvious reasons, this is of particular importance in this case. It is also important to state that we operate as a board and that I, as the current OCI president, am but one member of this board. However, today we would like to make the following points in respect of particular matters addressed in the Moran report. On the issue of governance and the Deloitte report, of the 25 Deloitte recommendations - a copy of the Deloitte report was circulated to the members - 15 have been completed, two are implemented in part and the remaining eight are under review for our planned extraordinary general meeting later this year. These include term limits for the board, and we will put proposals to our members for approval in order to bring about implementation of the final Deloitte recommendations.
In terms of the constitution, at our AGM on 22 June 2017, our members passed a significant number of changes to our constitution to bring it in line with the Companies Act 2014 and Revenue Commissioner requirements, and to implement the Deloitte recommendations.
All of these changes were discussed with the OCI and approved by it.
With regard to structural reforms, we have also established various sub-committees, including in respect of governance, commercial and finance, audit and risk, and a new athletes commission chaired by former Olympian, Mr. David Gillick. We have a fantastic group of Irish Olympians who are part of this new athletes commission and it will play a key role in the further development of OCI policy regarding athletes, coaches and the Olympic Games. We have overhauled the internal financial administration and appointed an external financial accountant to oversee the new system.
The board has adopted and committed to the implementation of the voluntary code of governance. This is important because it involves a more comprehensive approach to organisational reform at the OCI than that covered in the Deloitte report, which was confined to particular areas of the organisation. Standing orders for the way in which the board operates have been adopted and are operational, and codes of business conduct and conflict of interest statements have been agreed and signed by our board members. A 2017 business plan and a strategic review have been agreed with a view to publication by year-end following appropriate consultation with members and partners. That is all currently under way.
A summary of international Olympic committee solidarity programmes, which are about funding support for specific programmes, has been prepared with a view to increasing transparency around such programmes and increasing awareness of their existence amongst member federations. We are also working on a transparent funding policy in respect of how we, the OCI, provide funding to our members federations.
We accept Mr. Justice Moran’s findings regarding the unsatisfactory ticketing arrangements at the Rio Olympic Games, particularly the criticism to the effect that it appeared that the appointment of Pro10 as the authorised ticket reseller, ATR, for Rio was, in fact, as the report stated "to disguise the continuing involvement of Marcus Evans and T.H.G. in the sale of tickets in Ireland for the Rio Olympic Games, notwithstanding the rejection of T.H.G. by R.O.C.O.G." The new board of the OCI takes these allegations very seriously. Mr. Justice Moran also made it clear that board members were not aware of the decision of the Rio local organising committee to reject THG as Ireland's ATR for 2016 nor of the subsequent incorporation and appointment of Pro10. The board was not privy to this information at the time. There is a clear inference in the report that there was lack of transparency involved on the part of several individuals and, with hindsight, it is difficult to reconcile statements certain individuals made publicly with some of the documentation that has recently been uncovered.
Following its election in February 2017, the new board was concerned with the ticketing arrangements in place for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in February 2018. On 19 July 2017, the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, POCOG, formally wrote to THG terminating its contractual relationship with THG under the THG PyeongChang 2018 ticketing agreement. I understand that POCOG did so on the basis that THG had breached the IOC code of conduct.
The OCI fully respects the decision of POCOG, the Winter Games organising committee, to withdraw its approval of THG for the 2018 Games and to terminate its contractual relationship with THG. We at the OCI are committed to ensuring that this does not affect the needs of its athletes and the Irish public who wish to attend these Games. With the PyeongChang 2018 Games approaching, we are currently liaising with the organising committee with a view to making alternative ticketing arrangements at the Games and it has advised that it will support us in our ticketing arrangements in this regard. It is anticipated that the number of ticket requests will be small given the small size of the anticipated Irish team - between five and ten athletes - that will compete at the 2018 Winter Games.
As regards any apparent future contractual arrangements with THG or the Marcus Evans Group, I wish to update the committee on the following. As the committee will appreciate, we are legally constrained in what we can say at this time. However, we are happy to provide the following information to the committee. First, it is evident that there were significant decisions taken with regard to future ticketing arrangements that were not brought before the OCI board. Over the past number of months we have been committed to trying to establish with our legal advisors the status of the ticketing arrangements that had been put in place with THG. This has not been a straightforward process as the OCI’s files did not contain any executed agreements for any Olympic Games subsequent to 2018.
It was not until recently that our legal advisers were provided with a copy of two agreements covering the 2020, 2022, 2024, and 2026 games by lawyers for THG. The OCI has not seen original copies of these agreements. We are currently taking legal advice on the validity of these documents and the OCI fully reserves its position in this regard. We are therefore unable to discuss the contents of these documents and are advised by our legal advisers that it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time. I hope members will appreciate that we are trying to be as transparent and forthcoming with information as possible, but we consider it appropriate from a legal and governance perspective that the new board should have a chance to review these documents, consider appropriate legal advice and discuss same at the upcoming board meeting later this month.
As the new board has been elected following the events in Rio in August 2016, and will be in situ for the upcoming Olympic Games in PyeongChang and Tokyo, it is only appropriate that this board should be entrusted with making decisions relevant to those games. However, I assure members that the OCI is committed to evaluating all agreements for future Olympic Games, including the screening and selection process of prospective authorised ticket resellers, ATRs, in light of the recommendations contained in the report of the Moran inquiry.
I will now discuss reconciliations. We understand that Pro10 owe the OCI moneys as part of the rights fee to be paid under the contractual agreement for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and we have recently issued a request for payment of these moneys. We are advised that it would be inappropriate to comment further on this matter at this time. We note that the report makes recommendations in respect of ticket reconciliations for London 2012 and Rio 2016 and we are committed to considering this further at the upcoming board meeting. It may mean that we look to Grant Thornton for further clarification on this matter. Having said that, we are focused on the future and the ticketing process that lies ahead for the winter and summer games in 2018 and 2020 and we are committed to a much clearer and more transparent process in this regard with a much improved service to be delivered to athletes, parents, spectators, etc.
Performance accreditations are always a priority for the OCI and will continue to be so. The OCI will work closely with performance directors, CEOs and member federations to deliver the best possible support under the games regulations. The Moran report makes it clear that the area of accreditations is complex and that we need to do a better job at ensuring the process is understood and is as clear and transparent as possible. We do not expect accreditations to be an issue for the upcoming winter games and we have time to prepare for Tokyo. We have already begun to address this issue by organising a joint engagement day, which took place on 26 May 2017 in collaboration with Sport Ireland. We intend to strengthen our existing partnership agreement with Sport Ireland in this Olympic cycle.
We are currently in a period of significant change and reform at the OCI. We are confident that these changes will make the OCI a much better, stronger, more transparent and more strategic organisation that will deliver better results for Irish Olympians and its member federations. The past year has been very difficult for all involved, including the staff who have worked under difficult circumstances. However, we are confident of moving forward together with our member federations to deliver the best for Irish Olympic sport, athletes and the sporting public.
Changes in how the OCI operates are already happening, as outlined earlier, and change will continue until we have best practice governance systems in place. We are putting particular focus on listening to our athletes and our members and to deliver the organisation they deserve. We are very proud of Team Ireland’s performances at the recent European Youth Olympic Festival, returning with six medals from six young, female athletes, and many great individual performances, as well as the other fantastic performances of Irish athletes competing around the world in various sporting events. The fallout from Rio must not take away from the hard work of the many athletes, coaches, performance support personnel, volunteers, contributors and member federations who do a great job for Irish Olympic sport.
We recognise the work of Mr. Justice Moran on completing the report.