As tickets for Rep of Ireland-Portugal match retail for €238 and upwards on reseller sites, opposition blames Government for failing to act
The Government is to designate all events at the Aviva Stadium under anti-ticket touting legislation after Independent.ie revealed that tickets for the upcoming Ireland vs Portugal World Cup qualifier were being offered for multiples of their face value by reseller sites online just hours after they sold out.
This evening, it was announced that from tomorrow, Thursday, October 28, the Government would designate all events at the Aviva under the legislation.
It was open to the event organisers or the Government to designate the match or the venue under the new laws, but neither had done so.
Today the FAI said it had applied yesterday for the Ireland vs Portugal game to be designated under the Sale of Tickets Act 2021.
This evening Fine Gael’s Seanad spokesperson on enterprise Garret Ahearn said the Aviva had also applied for venue designation and that from tomorrow the sale of tickets for all future matches and events at the venue would be protected under the legislation, preventing them from being sold for sums greater than face value.
“I’m delighted to see that the Aviva Stadium, with agreement from both the IRFU and the FAI, applied for, and has been granted, designation with effect from tomorrow. All future events in the Aviva now have blanket cover under the legislation.”
“This is a big win for sports and music fans across the country,” Mr Ahearn added.
Earlier, a Government minister had said the FAI should have already designated the sold-out World Cup qualifier to prevent tickets falling into the hands of ticket touts.
However, the opposition hit out at both the FAI and the Government over the matter.
Sinn Féin enterprise spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said: “There has been much debate in the past 24 hours since I first raised questions as to how ticket touting was taking place for the World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Portugal when there is specific legislation to protect against this from happening.
“In that time, An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister of State Robert Troy, as well as a number of other government representatives have tried to lay all the blame for the situation at the feet of the FAI.
“The FAI should, of course, have applied for the Ireland v Portugal game to be protected from ticket touting under the Sale of Tickets (Cultural, Entertainment, Recreational and Sporting Events) Act 2021.
“However, given the legislation is only a few months old and they have been under pressure organising the first sell-out game at Lansdowne Road in two years, they can, to a point, plead ignorance.
“The Government, on the other hand, cannot plead ignorance.
“This has been negligence on their behalf. There is specific provision in the legislation which allows the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar to intervene and protect a venue or event from ticket touting.
“When an application was not received from the FAI to protect this game from ticket touting, the Tánaiste and Minister Troy should have intervened and applied the law to tickets for this game.
“That that was not done, and that the Government has spent the past 24 hours trying to shift all of the blame on to the FAI, is regrettable.
“They can spin this whatever way they want, but the reality is that football fans have lost out due to their failure to act.
“There are other important games taking place in the coming weeks, such as the rugby international between Ireland and New Zealand. I hope that the Tánaiste will learn from his inaction and use his powers to ensure the game is protected from ticket touting.”
New laws passed over the summer allow event operators to apply for designation for an event or a venue to be protected under the act, or for the Minister for Enterprise to apply a designation.
The tickets for the Republic of Ireland-Portugal clash originally went on sale for prices that ranged from €15 to €120.
The November 11 game in the Aviva Stadium sold out in minutes yesterday, with Manchester United player Cristiano Ronaldo a big draw for fans.
But because neither the event nor the venue was designated under the legislation, the cheapest price for one ticket on reseller site Viagogo is now €238, while another secondary ticket-selling site has tickets priced at €377.
Mr Troy told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne programme he was “annoyed” by how the situation has unfolded.
“I think it’s regrettable that the FAI haven’t used the legislation which was prioritised and enacted before the summer to offer protection to genuine fans,” he said.
According to Mr Troy, responsibility for seeking the designation falls on event organisers.
He described the process of designating an event as “very, very simple” and said it takes his office one week to verify applications.
When asked why his department did not intervene on behalf of the FAI to protect Irish fans, Mr Troy said the new legislation was “bedding in” and there was an “expectation” that the FAI would submit the application in advance of the match.
Mr Troy said officials from his department are now working with the operators of the Aviva Stadium to prevent a repeat of the episode.
“I would have expected them [FAI] to designate this event. I’m acknowledging that this a new piece of legislation for the FAI… giving them an opportunity to make the application.
"Unfortunately, they didn’t.”
Mr Troy added that he would encourage all suitable event organiser to apply for the designation in future.
“Because in doing so, you’re protecting your patrons, you’re protecting your fans and you’re ensuring that they have a much better chance of getting access to tickets at a fair value,” he said.
Thomond Park, Musgrave Park, and Vicar Street are already designated, but not the biggest stadia in the country.
Viagogo, which is hosting some sales for the Portgual game, said: “It is not illegal to re-sale tickets in Ireland.”
The legislation applies to designated venues, of which Lansdowne Road (Aviva Stadium) is not one, it said.
“Viagogo does not set ticket pries. This is done by people who use the platform.”
In a statement issued to Independent.ie subsequently, Viagogo said: “In line with the designation of Aviva Stadium announced overnight, we have removed all tickets for the Ireland v. Portugal football match from our website.
“All tickets purchased on viagogo before the designation at 12:00am Thursday 28/10/2021 remain valid for the match.
“Unfortunately, this legislation just means that ticket resales will now return to unregulated black markets where fans are likely to pay higher prices such as social media sites, in pubs, clubs and car parks with no guarantees or customer service.”
Other tickets were available on other websites.
Labour party Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said lessons must be learned.
“Despite the efforts by Government to end ticket scalping, it’s clear that the legislation needs to be revisited to provide specific designation to venues,” he said.
“The price of tickets for Ireland v Portugal are already selling for two or three times face value which is only going to increase the closer we get to the game.
“The effect of this black market is making it more difficult for ordinary fans to get tickets.
"The only people who benefit are the ticket touts who are making obscene tax-free profits from this.
"The good has really been taken away from the build-up to the match at this stage.”
Mr Ó Ríordáin added: “We need to learn lessons from this and make sure that this is the last time ticket touts ruin the fun for everyone.
“Under the legislation, it would be easy to designate venues like Lansdowne Road, Croke Park and other regional sports grounds immediately and I would urge government to act now to do so.
“As various members of Government try to distance themselves from the matter, we need someone to take responsibility and act now before something like this happens again.
“The Ireland v Portugal match should have been a real celebration as we see more and more fans return to games. Let this be the last time that fans experience this and ensure that ticket touting is stamped out once.”
In a statement released to Independent.ie the FAI said it wished “to thank all of those fans who have bought tickets for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 fixture against Portugal at the Aviva Stadium which is a sell-out following the pre-sale to our loyal season ticket holders, Club Ireland members and Corporate Box holders over the weekend and yesterday’s public sale on Ticketmaster.ie.
“This game only became eligible for a capacity crowd last Friday with the easing of Government guidelines on attendances at sporting events.”
The FAI said it was aware tickets for the Portugal match are currently being offered for resale at inflated prices online.
"We remind fans who purchase tickets from a third-party website or any unauthorised seller that they risk not receiving a ticket at all or being denied entry with an invalid ticket. We urge fans not to purchase tickets from these sources,” the FAI said.
“The FAI will continue to work with Government to combat the illegal resale of tickets and yesterday applied to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to designate the Ireland v Portugal game as an event which comes under the auspices of the recently introduced Sale of Tickets Act 2021 legislation.”
This article was updated on October 28, 2021, with a new statement from Viagogo.