Thursday 18 July 2019

Tickets touts still selling at World Cup despite Fifa crackdown

Sellers have been visible outside the main ticket office in Moscow, buying spare tickets and selling at inflated prices.

Football fans at the main ticket office in Moscow (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Football fans at the main ticket office in Moscow (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

By James Ellingworth

Touts are still operating at the World Cup, despite claims of a crackdown by Fifa and Russian organisers on illicit ticket sales.

Sellers have been visible outside the main ticket office in Moscow, buying spare tickets from fans and selling at inflated prices.

An Associated Press reporter was approached six times in an hour and offered tickets including a luxury Category 1 seat for the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia. One was offered at about £520 – or £110 above the standard price.

The most in-demand tickets, such as for Argentina’s opening game, are being offered online for as much as £1,710, although buyers have no guarantee they are getting genuine access to the games.

(PA Graphics)

Fifa has tried to cancel some tickets and last week filed a criminal complaint against ticket resale website Viagogo. Russia has made World Cup touting punishable by a fine for individual sellers of up to 25 times the ticket’s face value.

Despite the tough talk from Russian authorities, police at the ticket office on a night earlier this week did little besides briefly inspect one seller’s documents.

Each World Cup ticket must be registered to an individual, but sellers exploit a loophole in Fifa’s system allowing fans to buy up to four tickets then change the registered names on three of them.

As long as the new recipient has at least one ticket of their own — and so is registered in Russia’s Fan ID system — a switch is possible.

(PA Graphics)

“You just need ID,” said one seller, who said he was from France and had sold “lots” of tickets in the last month. He offered two tickets issued under Russian men’s names while standing next to the ticket office sign that said “tickets are not available for most games”.

Like others, he declined to give his name because the reselling is illegal.

Another seller claimed he had received complimentary tickets and was selling them to fund his World Cup journey.

“Because Fifa’s given me this ticket, it’s like a game to make money,” he said, displaying tickets to four games. He then exchanged phone numbers with a fan, apparently to arrange a handover elsewhere.

Five men with English accents worked as a group, splitting up to approach fans in the queue for the sales office. One held a thick wad of tickets.

There is no reliable way to check if the tickets are fake, have been cancelled or whether the seller really changed the registration.

“A significant number of unauthorised online ticket sales, offered via websites and on social media originating from various countries, have been stopped,” Fifa said in a statement.

“Overall Fifa counts on the co-operation of the respective authorities to protect fans from scalpers in line with the applicable regulations.”

Fifa policy says registrations should only be changed to a person with “a pre-existing relationship with the ticket purchaser”.

Fifa’s system does not allow the original buyer of a group booking to change their own registration, only those of other guests, so a fan could end watching the game next to their tout.

PA Media

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