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The White Knight Of The Pat Hickey Touting Scandal: Football Legend Romario

The White Knight Of The Pat Hickey Touting Scandal: Football Legend Romario
By Gavin Cooney

Slightly obscured by the heaving news-cycle of the Pat Hickey arrest is the role of legendary Brazilan footballer Romario.

Upon retirement, Romario ran for office, and in 2010 was elected to the Chamber of Deputies (Brazil's lower house of parliament, in essence their version of the Seanad) as a member of the Socialist party.

Romario made campaigning against corruption at the 2014 World Cup his main objective. He cried foul over the shovelling of public money into funding new stadiums and infrastructure to host the competition, believing it to be pandering to private profit over the public good. In one particularly strong address, he told parliament that Brazil had  "has opened its legs" to FIFA.

Romario also had worries over the Olympics in Rio also, and in 2012, he filed a request with the Brazilian ministry of sport to investigate Hickey. Four years ago, Romario was worried that tickets would end up in what he believed to be the wrong hands, and would not be made available to working-class Brazilians, writing in a blog post that "here in Brazil, will tickets for the Games be luxurious goods so the middle class and the poor can only attend on TV?"

The blog post was originally a speech made under parliamentary privilege in Brazil. It has now been taken down from the internet.

Romario aired these concerns from London 2012 as he was worried about a repeat at Rio 2016.

Hickey strongly refuted Romario's claims at the time.

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Hickey went on to say at the time that a ticketing system for Rio 2016 was not yet in place, and that "Rio 2016 has confirmed it will decide in late 2013 with each National Olympic Committee and its Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR) how to ensure efficient ticket sales abroad".

Hickey also stated that "I am only one member of the 17-strong International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission for the Rio 2016 Games, and I have no functional, contractual or administrative relationship with Rio 2016".

While Romario claimed four years ago that Hickey was involved in touting tickets for London 2012, today has seen Brazilian police state they have proof that Hickey was involved in touting for 2016.

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While THG held the rights to resell tickets earmarked for the OCI for 2012, they did not hold these privileges for Rio 2016. Instead, a company entitled Pro 10 were the OCI's Authorised Ticket Reseller. THG, therefore, have no right to resell Irish tickets for the 2016 games.

Brazilian police state that they have evidence from Hickey's phone of correspondence between him and Marcus Evans, the owner of THG, and have charged him with  facilitating ticket touting, the formation of a cartel and ambush or illicit marketing.

Hickey's arrest is described by Brazilian police as being the third phase of their inquiry, and it all began with Romario's allegations four year ago.

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See Also: Live Blog: OCI President Pat Hickey Arrested At His Hotel In Rio

See Also: Confirmed: Irish Olympians Flew Economy As Pat Hickey Lived It Up In First Class

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