by Michael Kealy
Ticket resale websites Viagogo and Ticketbis are under investigation by National Trading Standards for selling tickets at increased prices to football fans who are unaware that they are being overcharged.
The revelations have prompted authorities to warn fans their safety may be at risk.
Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said: “We have repeatedly exposed secondary ticketing websites, including Viagogo, for playing fast and loose with the rules, so it’s absolutely right that the Advertising Standards Authority has stepped in to ensure people aren’t getting a raw deal.”
“Sharp practice must be clamped down on, particularly when people are increasingly finding that they have to buy tickets through secondary sites,” he said.
Resale sites Viagogo and Ticketbis are selling large quantities of tickets by taking advantage of dealings with “professional touts.” The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 states that it’s illegal for anyone without football club authorisation to sell tickets to third parties.
The current law, which was drawn up to improve safety for fans after the Hillsborough disaster, can be bypassed as the resale websites are based abroad.
“Our position is clear in the terms and conditions,” said Nigel Powlson, Head of Media at Burton Albion Football Club. “A match-day ticket is solely for the use of the purchaser and cannot be passed onto a third party without express permission.”
Generally, touts buy season or individual tickets and list them for sale on Viagogo where they are purchased by customers. Fans then are sent the tickets by email or post.
In some cases, tickets have sold for eight times the face value. There is software available online that is designed to collect tickets from football clubs’ ticketing systems.
The revelations were brought to light after crowd disturbance between Arsenal and Cologne was blamed on mass online reselling. Tickets supposedly for Cologne supporters ended up being in the Arsenal section.
It’s not just football fans being ripped off. This week, fans of Ed Sheeran attending his concert in Manchester who had originally bought tickets on secondary sites were asked to repurchase face value tickets when arriving at the venue.
However, music concerts do not fall under the same laws which prevent unauthorised secondary reselling in sport.
Viagogo states on its website that not allowing the fans who had purchased tickets on the resale site to attend concerts was: “highly unfair and in our view, unenforceable and illegal.”