Olympic Council of Ireland presidential candidate Bernard O'Byrne hopes his “outsider” status can help propel him to the top post in the much-maligned governing body.
Despite spending decades involved in sports administration in Ireland in the highest echelons, O’Byrne believes the fact that he hasn’t been a member of the OCI is a significant boon to his challenge – and a major blow to presidential rivals Sarah Keane and Willie O’Brien.
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All three candidates were interviewed on RTÉ Radio 1’s Saturday Sport, with O’Byrne seemingly keen to tap into the zeitgeist and present himself as an agent of change.
“I think the OCI is screaming for change,” O’Byrne, who is the current chief executive of Basketball Ireland and the former CEO of the FAI, told listeners.
“That’s what I offer. I offer myself as an outsider to the OCI scene. I’ve never been on an OCI committee. I’ve never sat in a committee room or made any decisions, where as the other two candidates have.”
The Deloitte report into governance and management at the OCI was particularly damning and O'Byrne believes that document must act as a catalyst for reform.
“I think the Deloitte Report that has come out has clearly said that there are instances where the OCI is not company law compliant, where governance is poor. That’s the starting point,” O'Byrne insisted.
“I think on the other side, there needs to be more delegation from the presidency to the people on the executive at the OCI because the previous president was such a dominant character.
“That’s not my style. I think we can get a body of work and spread it out amongst the 12 people or so on the executive.
“I think we need to make the OCI more relevant to Irish sport. The OCI should be at the heart of encouraging people in sport, especially young people. I don’t see that that has happened.
“I equally don’t see that the OCI has embraced our Olympians. That is something I would like to move on.”
O’Byrne also echoed concerns raised in the Deloitte Report regarding length of tenure for posts and was critical of excessive spending on legal, consultancy and public relations fees.
He spent over 10 years in the top chief executive’s hotseat with the FAI. Asked if he regarded the organisation as part of his legacy, he said: “Partly, it is. It’s one of the things I’m proud of.
"I restructured the committee structure in there and it was built on and expanded. It certainly wasn’t dismantled when I left.”
The FAI’s financial sub-committee alleged he was guilty of a number of financial irregularities in relation to a company credit, with O'Byrne always arguing his innocence and citing clerical errors as the cause of the controversy. He believes that episode will not harm his prospects.
“It’s never a difficult when you tell the truth,” he said.
“And I told the truth. There was absolutely no impropriety there.”
Each candidate was asked of their experience and views on travelling first class or business class.
While admitting to not exclusively using economy travel in the past, O’Byrne insisted his priorities were clear.
“The athletes should come first,” he said.
“If there are a certain amount of business class seats available, I would give them to the athletes and I would gladly travel in economy.
"But it’s something that doesn’t come into my radar. I’m just getting from A to B."