Off The Cuff: Touting, BPF investigates

by Ed Diggins

Silly season has arrived. The Champions League final is a touting dream and UEFA’s mindless ticketing allocations means that right now, some serious cash is shifting hands in football’s dirty underworld. Last Monday, UEFA released results of their public ballot and some of the 11,000 general sale tickets will make some people a lot of money.

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To see what the mindset of these people is, I responded to one advert on a message forum, from which I received a U.K. number. Upon ringing it, I was greeted by a middle-aged Liverpool fan from South London called George. George proceeded to rattle off a script to me, something he had obviously put a huge amount of effort into.

“I am a Liverpool fan and went to Athens a few years ago for the final. That ticket cost me £2,000 and I am looking to recoup the cost of it.’ he boasted proud fully.

“I am selling them for £3,000, I think this is a fair price, considering what is on view.’

“I am willing to fly from Stanstead to Dublin to meet you and hand over the tickets in exchange for the cash’, he went on to add.

“Real fans will pay this sort of money. I have already received offers of £1,500, but if I get an offer over £2,200 I would also let them go I think”.

I told him where to shove his tickets and that I hoped he was left with them.

To be honest though, you cannot point all the blame at these horrible people. They are spotting a niche market and going for the kill big time. It may be wrong, immoral and all that, even illegal, but realistically, not many people care. UEFA have to take massive responsibility here. 11,000 tickets is a huge amount and to have this number available to general sale, with very little security and checks, is quite shambolic to be honest. While some genuine fans will no doubt travel themselves and watch the game, you get the feeling that a vast amount of these will trade hands on the black market for incredible prices.

Then you have the idiots that actually pay for them, these are also to blame. People who will go to once off games and never again be seen at a ground. Demand means supply.

http://i.thisislondon.co.uk/i/pix/2009/02/scam-touts-415x275.jpgAnother disturbing trend is the amount of people within our own shores that have taken up this nasty habit. One popular Irish website is awash with ads for this year’s big event in Madrid. I found one add where the man in question was looking for €10,000 for two tickets. I rang another add, this time the considerate seller was looking for a paltry €5,000, which he considered to be a very reasonable deal.

“Tickets will be seated together and I am confident that they are already sold, I have had an offer of collection after the 10th of April” he stated.

Another advert was looking for €6,000 for his two tickets, which he justified by saying,

“I am a huge United fan and that is the price it would take for me to sell them (if United get to the final)”.

One wonders just how much demand theses lads will get for their tickets, in the event that United and Arsenal make their exit from Europe this week. Expect the value to drop and plenty of sweat to evaporate from their poor foreheads. A CSKA Moscow against Lyon final would teach a few harsh lessons.

However, it is not just this game that is attracting all sorts of patrons. That same Irish website has regular posters on there who are seriously breaking their Club Rules.  It becomes clear that many people in Ireland are selling their season tickets for their clubs, off at huge profits. For example, an average season ticket price at Old Trafford is €700. One member from Belfast, going under the name Johnny, had an advert for every remaining home game this season. He stood to make €1900 from five games, from his two tickets located in the East Stand. It looks like several other lads are doing the same, meaning that a huge number of fans from Ireland are paying over the odds just to see one game.

The same can be seen for Liverpool, with three people looking for €150 or more for the upcoming Benfica ¼ final in the Europa cup. A quick search also brought up similar results for Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Celtic, though at not quite the same level of expense. When I contacted the website involved via the report function, I was greeted with an automated response saying I would be contacted within 48 hours. That was four days ago and still no word from them. When I spoke to both Manchester United and Liverpool ticket offices, they said that they would look into the issue, one that it took very seriously. I do not expect it to go any further action as the reality is once the tickets are paid for, nobody gives a damn.

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World famous site Ebay has plans in place to counter-act touting. Normally, this is one of the main places to pick up tickets for any event, at inflated prices. A spokesman from the popular company advised me that this year’s Champions League final, will see sellers come in for a surprise however.

“We have changed our policy on major events such as sport or concerts,’ she stated.

“While we don’t make it public knowledge, anybody selling tickets for events such as the Champions League Final will do so under several restrictions and they will be informed of this upon placing the advert’

“All such applications will be subject to approval and we hope to that will make a huge difference in the over pricing of these events”

The fight against touting will never be a victorious one. While people keep buying, prices will stay high. Things are getting better though with the introduction of swipe cards at all the major UK grounds meaning that at least tickets have to maintain a traceable route. It is then up to the clubs to start cancelling memberships and denying touts the right to resell. Until they do so, genuine fans will be forced to sit at home with their sky plus remotes while the likes of George from London are living the high life. My advice is simple. Look hard enough and tickets can be got at the right price, face value. Do us all a favour; tell the rest like George and his cronies, to shove them too.

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