Sunday 25 August 2019

Tickets for €10k in fever-pitch demand

A Liverpool fan looking for tickets ahead of last night’s Champions League final at the Wanda
Metropolitano in Madrid. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA
A Liverpool fan looking for tickets ahead of last night’s Champions League final at the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

Tom Morgan

At 10am, in the sun-drenched setting of Madrid's Plaza de Felipe II, the desperate figure in a Liverpool shirt made his best bid. "I've got 10 grand in cash," he said, as the clamour for a Champions League final ticket reached boiling point under 32C skies.

One tout was said to have made up to £100,000 as match-day demand outstripped supply like never before in European football. The vast majority of fans, both in red and white, seemed to have a friend or two with them on the hunt with wads of cash as the clock ticked down to kick-off.

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Eventually, a Kop season ticket-holder of 20 years would prove that even the most loyal fan has a price. A spare ticket held by one of his friends had already been sold for £4,000, and the buyer had come back to see whether he had could prise away his £385 category two ticket landed through Liverpool's official club ballot. "No way," was the initial reaction.

Then the offer came in for €10,000.

The seller, who had been on Liverpool's waiting list for years before securing his season ticket in the 1990s, thought of his family and then handed over his ticket. "I'll take the kids to Florida," he told his friends. "How can you blame him," his pal added. "Family comes first."

Last year, in Kiev, it had been so different. Many Liverpool fans who made the arduous trip had been able to get in on the day for around £300. This time, however, there was only heartache.

As kick-off loomed, three Liverpool fans were ejected from the stadium perimeters with fake tickets they had apparently purchased for £5,000. A tout stood nearby outside the stadium metro station with a 'Tickets Wanted' sign. He said that he would open the bidding at €4,000 in his own money just to get his hands on one to sell on.

The black market demand - which forced Uefa to issue an urgent warning during the week after thousands of fans were mis-sold tickets on secondary websites - is believed to have broken records. The match had a global TV audience of around 400 million, and Darren Rovell, a sports business analyst who has been keeping record, said the final was now in the top five most expensive last-minute sales in sports history.

Every hotel in Madrid was sold out and the late rush for flights caused the busiest 24 hours in UK airline history. The authorities had prepared for an influx of 70,000 people, but fans groups reckoned last night that 100,000 had shown up by kick-off.

Many had resorted to desperate measures to get here - including the former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes, who said he slept next to homeless people outside Barcelona airport after his flight from Santorini to the Spanish capital was cancelled, causing a marathon detour.

It had also been some journey for Spurs fan Jose Arellano, from Monterrey, Mexico. Having arrived in Madrid with his wife and young son, he was told the £9,000 tickets he had bought via ticket firm StubHub were undeliverable. However, in a slick PR move, rival ticket firm Viagogo stepped in to source three new tickets - albeit for three times the price.

Viagogo said it had sold around 2,000 tickets, and would fulfil more than 90pc of purchases. "Where Viagogo have offered a refund they are also offering approximately £800 compensation on top to the buyer," a source said.

Also beating the odds to get to the Wanda Metropolitano was former Black Watch soldier James Scott. The 49-year-old, who shattered his spine in Iraq, should have been preparing for surgery but instead discharged himself from hospital. "I wouldn't have missed this for the world - let alone an operation," he said. "I had an MRI scan on Monday because discs in my back have welded together."

Predictions of unrest - as depicted on the front page of Marca - did not materialise.

Indeed, the 4,700-strong police presence was accused of heavy-handedness after officers confronted Tottenham fans at the Cafe and Tapas restaurant, just off the Puerta del Sol fan area, on Friday evening.

The square was where most fans without tickets gathered ahead of kick-off. With bars doubling their prices to around €8 for a small beer, the Liverpool fan with the bag full of €10,000 may also have been getting the rounds in.

Telegraph

Telegraph.co.uk

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