Minister Shane Ross and Department officials met with Sarah Keane, President and Sarah O’Shea, Honorary General Secretary of the OCI last night and agreed to release €100,000 of funding through Sport Ireland which had previously been withheld since investigations began into the OCI over ticketing and governance issues arising out of the Rio Games last year.
Sport Ireland funding of the OCI is different to that of other sports bodies in that each euro has to be accounted for as being spent on athlete related activities. Costs of administration and wages for staff are met out of other funding whether through the International Olympic Committee or through commercial revenue.
The sum represents money previously agreed to be paid for 2016. Money that had been earmarked for 2017 is still being held back pending discussion on the OCI’s bid to negate a contract signed for ticketing between former President Pat Hickey and British ticketing firm The Hospitality Group.
The OCI does not have any commercial partnerships in place at present and while the fog is clearing it remains a damaged brand for businesses to commit to at present.
“I am very supportive of the efforts undertaken in recent months by the new board of the OCI and recognise the real progress made,” said Ross speaking after the meeting.
“I am satisfied that the outstanding funding for 2016 was spent on athlete related activities and is in order for reimbursement.”
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“With regard to funding for 2017 onwards, I will engage with the OCI and Sport Ireland in joint pursuit of continued progress in the months ahead.”
This sentiment was echoed by a spokeswoman for the OCI who said that “we are pleased that the 2016 funding will now be released. We will continue to vigorously pursue our reform agenda and we will work closely with the Department and Sport Ireland to ensure 2017 funding is restored as quickly as possible.”
It is understood that Pat Hickey’s resignation from the IOC Executive Board was a key factor in loosening the funding knot as it also removes his theoretical right to attend OCI Board Meeting in an ex-officio capacity.
Moves are already underway at the IOC to replace Hickey as the representative of National Olympic Committees with Fiji’s Robin Mitchell.
Hickey’s trial in Brazil is scheduled to get underway on November 29th.
Sport Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport are among the more than 220 organisations that play an active part of the Sport for Business community.