By Tony Attwood
Gradually the issues following last night’s fiasco have begun to emerge.
Cologne have been charged by Uefa with crowd disturbances, setting of fireworks, throwing objects and acts of damage. Arsenal have been charged with the blocking of stairways in an away supporter section.
Arsenal’s statement however includes the comment that, “Many tickets were sold through touts and this is very disappointing and something we continue to work hard to address.”
But just how hard is Arsenal working to allow people who are honest and reasonable card carrying Arsenal supporters to go about their business of the supporting the club in a reasonable manner?
Certainly they have a fair amount of law to use including the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006, and the Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007.
Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 makes it an offence to sell a ticket for a designated football match or otherwise to dispose of such a ticket to another person, but this old act is now seen as not a very potent weapon against touts and so although it is still on the statute books, it has in practice been replaced by the other acts.
Section 53 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act amended Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act makes it an offence for newspapers to carry advertising for ticket touts, and stops touts trying to claim that they are giving a ticket away free with another product, including hospitality/travel package, and by applying Section 166 to those people who supply touts with tickets.
The act and amendments made it clear that the price of the ticket is immaterial and the issue is whether public order is put in jeopardy by for example decreasing the segregation of supporters at football matches. That clearly is what we saw last night.
Likewise the sale of the ticket does not have to be “in the course of business”. Any transaction of a ticket to another person can be caught by this law, which means if I buy a ticket and pass it on to anyone else, I can be caught under this Act.
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The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007 makes it clear the legislation noted above includes any match involving one or more teams which are members of the Premier League, the Football League or the Football Conference, and includes all Champs League, Europa League and other such tournaments.
The legislation can be used in conjunction with football banning orders. A conviction for ticket touting carries with it a maximum penalty of a fine of £5,000. A football banning order can also be imposed on a tout as a preventative measure.
Section 53 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act included in the definition of ticket touting trading on the internet. This would only, however, fall within the scope of the Act if any part of the transaction occurs within England and Wales as that is the limit of the Act’s territory. If this is to happen then an offence will have occurred.
So it is just possible that someone with an Arsenal membership might have got a ticket for last night’s game but then driven to Scotland and sold it on the internet to a German fan. But that seems very unlikely.
More likely some gold, silver, red and club level members sold their tickets on to touts who sold them on to Cologne supporters. And surely the club must know who these members are, because when Cologne scored in the first half, all their supporters were on their feet celebrating. So the seat number is known, the owner is known and the sale of the seat on is visible.
Likewise, if you come out of Arsenal station in the two hours before a game you will find lots of people walking up and down saying “who wants tickets” and “buy and sell tickets”. I understand that these people are not committing an offence, but if the club wants to stop the practice of touting it can simply introduce a series of stings of people pretending to want tickets being led through the process and then the individual arrested. We do after all live in the country that has more surveillance cameras per 1000 people than any other country in the world, so it would be good if it could be put to some use.
Cologne: the aftermath.
Henry Norris at the Arsenal