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By Sir Hardly Anyone
Ticket touting – which basically is taken to mean buying a ticket from the original provider (such as a football club) with the intention of selling it on at a profit, is by and large illegal in the UK. Indeed so illegal that there are no less than four pieces of legislation covering the issue:
- The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
- The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006
- The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007
- The Consumer Rights Act Amendment 2015
However, it is not just the volume of acts, orders and amendments that singles out touting in football – it is that (as can be seen from the third title above) the government singled out football as a “special case” over 15 years ago.
Although seeing football as a “special case” actually goes back further than this for section 166 of the Criminal Justice Act (the first one in the list above) sets out the fact that it is an offence for an unauthorised person to re-sell tickets to a designated football match. Which means in fact that all the men standing outside Arsenal underground station are openly committing an offence, and could be arrested, if the police chose to do so. It also means that a person who has a ticket for a match, but can’t go, and then gives the ticket to a friend, is not committing a criminal offence – although he or she may be breaking Arsenal’s in house rules.
(I should add that one early scheme that bypassed the act by selling a programme for £100 or whatever with a ticket inside as a free extra, was outlawed in 2006 in the Violent Crime Reduction Act along with all other creative ways around the law – and indeed the 2007 act went so far as to define what a football match was, just so we didn’t get confused with, well, a children’s playground, or energetic religious festival).
Now this history is interesting because an article reviewing the whole situation on CNN’s website states that, “It’s relatively easy for the police to spot a bloke standing outside the stadium shouting ‘get your tickets’ in a faux-Cockney accent.” That is true, but as I’ve noted before, it doesn’t seem to encourage the police to do that at Arsenal station.
As a result complaints to the police are legion, and yet nothing much happens to stop touting, because (it is argued) the crooks have used the underhand technique of operating via websites based outside the UK.
What has happened of late is that through the use of computerised systems, it is possible for touts to corner the market in tickets for a match. The price that they are offering the tickets for is then so high that only a fraction of the tickets need to be sold. The rest are simply dumped, meaning that fans with legitimate memberships trying to get a ticket see huge numbers of empty seats, while having been told by the club that all seats have been sold. Anger then understandably rises.
After all, if the tout is buying a ticket for £50 and re-selling it for £500, and the whole system is undertaken on line he/she only needs to sell 25% of the tickets bought by the bot to be making a decent profit. Buy 100 (cost £5000) sell 25 at £500 each (income £12500), profit £12000, empty seats, 75.
As the CNN article notes, with the websites based outside the UK, “it remains to be seen how the problem can be fixed,” although the word is spreading that Arsenal are making significant changes to the way people are admitted to the ground next season, in an effort to stop this.
Tickets for Arsenal’s final game of the season against Wolverhampton Wanderers are being touted on resale website StubHub for extortionate prices. The CNN article is quoting prices ranging from $1,175 to $65,000. One ticket in the away section is listed at $330,000. If that is real (and CNN don’t normally make stuff up in my experience) then again, there is no need for the online touts to sell all of their tickets. The actual price for the best seat outside of the boxes is £75.50 ($94)
On the other side of the fence StubHub says “StubHub enables fans to buy and sell tickets to tens of thousands of events. Backed by award-winning customer care, StubHub’s FanProtect™ Guarantee means every ticket is guaranteed valid or customers receive a replacement ticket of equal or better value, or their money back.”
(Incidentally, FanProtect is not a registered trade mark in the UK).
CNN states that Arsenal claims, “it has cancelled almost 2,000 memberships for touting offences this season and blocked half a million IP addresses due to “suspected bot activity” during the sale of tickets for the Wolves fixture.” They also note that, “The Premier League has also compiled an extensive list of popular third-party websites fans should avoid, with StubHub included.”
So it is possible that the scourge of touting might be attacked, but it will be interesting to see just how many empty seats there are for the last two games of the season.
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