Touting for tickets- Steven Falk
November 23, 2012
The RFU has recently claimed a legal victory over on-line resellers offering tickets to its matches at Twickenham at inflated prices. The practice of selling tickets to events at more than their face value is considered ‘touting’ under UK law, so it is important to differentiate between officially-endorsed ‘authorized resellers’ and the spivs who feed off the desperation of individual fans and wealthy corporations eager to attend top sporting events at any price.
In the world of football, resale of tickets is illegal under section 166 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This stipulates that it is an offence for any unauthorised person to sell a ticket for a designated football match or otherwise dispose of such a ticket to another person. The Act was amended by section 53 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006. This imposed the following additional restrictions:
• newspapers cannot carry advertising for ticket touts;
• touts are prevented from claiming that a match ticket comes ‘free’ with another product;
• the law applies both to people offering tickets with a wider/hospitality package and people who provide tickets to touts.
An individual convicted of ticket touting at football matches in the UK is potentially liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and a football banning order.
Given the clear definition of the offence and the stiff penalties available for those caught infringing the law, it may seem surprising that many football clubs receive sponsorship income from official ticket resellers. In most cases, these relationships are established to provide a service to help fans unable to attend a match to dispose of their tickets in a safe and controlled environment. Tickets are exchanged at face value plus a small administration charge to cover operating costs.<>
The problem arises when a secondary ticket site offers tickets at a much higher value and in greater numbers. The RFU took action when they discovered tickets with a face value of between £20 and £55 each being advertised for sale at up to £1,300 in blocks of up to 24 seats.
There is a world of difference between the provision of a ticket exchange service to facilitate access to unwanted seats and a commercial operation designed to obtain the highest price available irrespective of the face value of the ticket.
Sports organisations must be constantly vigilant to ensure that the line between them, even when clouded by a desire to please a valued sponsor, is never crossed.
Steven Falk founded Star Sports Marketing in 2010. Current clients include Chelsea FC, World Academy of Sport and Jockey Club Racecourses. Prior to this, Steven was Director of Marketing at Manchester United and board director of Manchester United Foundation (Trading) Ltd – the club’s charitable arm.
You can follow me on Twitter @steven_falk