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As the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) continue to make wholesale changes to the way the organisation is governed and constituted, legacy issues continue to haunt modernising president Sarah Keane.
With an athlete centred seven-year plan in the process of being launched with the organisation hoping to become a net commercial contributor to Irish sport in the coming years, Keane and her board could yet come into conflict with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over its former president Pat Hickey.
Hickey’s troubles over the ticketing scandal at Rio 2016 appear to have cooled for now with the supreme court in Brasília recently confirming that an injunction to suspend the case granted to a ticket resales (THG) executive Kevin Mallon, arrested with Mr Hickey, also extended to the former OCI president. As a result Hickey’s trial date set for November 29th was suspended.
However the insistence of the IOC to nail down Hickey’s place on the OCI board has already led to a divergence of opinion between the OCI and the international governing body.
The IOC, despite the Irish Olympic body unanimously agreeing in August not to accept the return of its former president, has insisted that Hickey fulfils his role as an IOC member and sits on the board of the OCI with a vote. Anything else, it says, would be contrary to its charter.
Hickey is also entitled to hold the board position with no term limits, which are applied to all of the other executive members, although it is currently a moot point. Hickey ‘self suspended’ himself from OCI duties before the new board was formed and is technically not on it. No one knows if and when he will re-engage.
“The board is uncomfortable with the situation; I think we’ve already come out and made our sentiments clear about that,” said Keane. “The IOC are very clear that this is not personal from their perspective.
“This is their charter and everybody is obliged to comply with that. This isn’t any different; we said this a couple of months ago. It’s just been confirmed.
“We felt, though, we should engage with the IOC directly on the issue and we wanted to make sure that they understood how important this is for this board, for this organisation, for this country, and how people feel about it.”
“We have a very good relationship with them so we’d sit down and discuss it,” added Keane, who pointed out that while Hickey is now 72 years old he does not have to retire as an International Olympic Committee member until he is 80.
It would not be an unreasonable expectation that the ticketing affair would find resolution during that time frame.
“You’re appointed an IOC member. You used to be appointed until you were 80,” she said. “If you were appointed before the rule change, it’s until you are 80. Since the new rule changes, you’re an IOC member until you’re 70.
“It means there is no term limit. That’s the fundamental thing for us. If you take the personalities out of it, we believe every member of the board should be serving a term limit, because that’s what good governance says.
“The idea that one person could be there for 30 years, or 20 years, or whatever, and everybody else is only there for eight or potentially a max of 12 in their lifetime, doesn’t sit well with this board.”
Hickey was OCI president from 1989 to 2016, an unprecedented 27-year run.
Keane also confirmed that her board have had discussions with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and Revenue, after both bodies made contact following the publication of the Judge Moran and Deloitte reports. The IOC Ethics Commission also indicated they are conducting an investigation.
“We’re being very transparent about it,” added Keane.
“It’s a right and entitlement of the IOC member under the charter; they don’t have to sit on the board. And also from our perspective in relation to our current IOC member, it’s not an issue currently for us because he’s self-suspended and there’s a whole ethics commission investigation that’s ongoing.
“I’ve had direct access to Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, on several occasions this year. I do believe that they understand where we are as an organisation on it.”