SPORTS fans will have to pay 20pc extra for tickets if they want to be sure of a seat at the London Olympics.
Ireland's only authorised ticket reseller for the games is charging a "booking fee" equal to one-fifth of the face value of its tickets, the Irish Independent has learned.
THG Sports Tours is selling seats for a limited number of Olympic events including boxing, football, judo, beach volleyball, badminton, weightlifting and wrestling.
However, its booking surcharge adds between £5 (€6) and £25 (€30) to the price of each ticket.
The ticket agency is part of the international Marcus Evans group and also handles hospitality tickets for the FAI at the Aviva Stadium.
If you want to see medal hopeful Paddy Barnes boxing on July 31 in London, tickets with a face value of €93 or €118 carry an additional booking fees of €19 and €24 respectively.
If you want to be part of history at an Olympic final, for example, a ticket to the weightlifting final on July 29 will cost €150 -- plus another €30 in booking fees from THG.
As an authorised reseller, THG is allocated returned Olympics tickets by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games via the Olympic Council of Ireland.
Each national Olympic council can authorise one agency to resell tickets, which have been returned from previous lottery rounds.
The mark-up -- compared with the face-value price paid by the lottery winners -- is limited to 20pc, up to a maximum of €50 per ticket.
Under EU law, fans here are also entitled to purchase tickets from authorised resellers in other European countries
However, these also charge the 20pc booking mark-up, and some resellers also add further hefty postage charges, a survey by the Irish Independent has found.
The Consumers Association of Ireland (CAI) criticised the high booking surcharge.
"It's out of all relation to the costs as these are not exactly a hard sell. I appreciate it's not the company that sets the charges, but the London Olympics do seem to have imposed unnecessarily high surcharges, given the tickets are already massively expensive," said CAI chief executive Dermott Jewell.
THG Sports Tours chief executive James Sinton said the booking fee was reasonable.
"We have to get something for the work involved in selling these tickets," he said.
They had sold thousands of tickets to Irish customers since they started a year ago, he said.
Mr Sinton insisted the 20pc mark-up was in line with all other authorised ticket resellers, and they also made a significant contribution to support the Olympic Council of Ireland during the games.
The European Consumer Centre urged customers who wanted to buy tickets to consult the official London 2012 website for the list of approved sites for ticket purchases, to avoid being scammed by bogus operators.
Meanwhile, sports enthusiasts who want to get their hands on Olympics tickets at face value can still enter the latest round of the official lottery.
Some 928,000 new tickets went on sale through the official London 2012 site on May 10, including tickets for major athletics events, gymnastics, showjumping and the opening and closing ceremonies.