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Published on January 16th, 2013 | by Seb

ViaGoGo: The return of the ticket tout

There is a lively debate currently taking place in the media about football ticket prices.

Some fans being charged more than others, clubs charging over £100 for a single match whilst others charge kids £95 for a season ticket and clubs returning unsold allocations are all part of the same problem: the cost of watching football in the Premier League.

It’s obvious to everybody that the average cost of a ticket to watch a football match has never been less affordable to many fans and yet at the same time some grounds have the sold out signs up so there seems to be a disconnect somewhere.

When you dig a bit deeper these sold out games often have quite a few empty seats with people simply not attending matches that they have apparently paid quite considerable amounts of money for!

Clubs are now ‘worried about empty seats as it doesn’t look good on television’ and of course the atmosphere at grounds is affected when stands are far from full.

This season my own club, Manchester City felt that the empty seat problem was significant enough to do something about it and so they partnered with a ticket agent, ViaGoGo.

The theory is simple. A fan with an unwanted ticket could sell that ticket to a fan who needed one.

But ViaGoGo (other rip-off merchants such as Seatwave, TicketMaster are available) charge fees in excess of 30% to match a seller to buyer as part of the deal that MCFC have signed up to.

Worse still the agreement allow fans to charge above face value when selling tickets to other fans.

Now depending on your age you may or may not remember the shouts outside football grounds of “Any spare tickets? I’ll buy any spare tickets!”

That was the all too familiar call of the ticket tout, the dodgy looking bloke who made his money from selling tickets above face value.

Back in the 90’s it was decided that something needed to be done to stop touts from ‘ruining our game’ by ‘ripping off honest fans’ and ‘making money from football when putting nothing back’.

And so we all applauded when this became law:

The resale of football tickets is illegal under section 166 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.resale of football tickets is illegal under section 166 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

For the purposes of clarity I was told that ticket touting is defined as the re-sale of a ticket above face value.

However in the United Kingdom the resale of football tickets is illegal under section 166 unless the resale is authorised by the organiser of the match.

I could now go on and list tickets and prices for clubs in the Premier League, Bundesliga or La Liga and some of the truly jaw dropping prices that fans are being asked to pay but for me the most shocking part of this is the principle of clubs working with and not against ticket touts.
It gets even worse though because a Manchester City fan, Adam Keyworth decided he had a better way for fans to exchange tickets and so he set-up a Twitter account which was strictly fee free and maintained that tickets could not be sold above face value.

The plain, unadulterated truth is that Manchester City are just one of a growing number of clubs to allow fans to be charged above face value by other fans to attend matches, they have become the ticket touts football worked so hard to get rid of.

You would think that such an altruistic enterprise would be embraced by City but no he has had it closed down by the club on spurious copyright/trademark grounds on two occasions.

He’s determined to carry on though and so it’s back up @CityTicketX and it is a real alternative to the authorised touting operation that charges in excess of 30% to sell your ticket and allows one fan to rip off another.

Still clubs complain that there are empty seats at matches even though they have been sold whilst fans complain that ticket prices are no longer affordable so what do the clubs do? They create a market where the most well off fans can buy up season tickets in the knowledge that the less well off can be charged above face value for the games that they themselves don’t want to attend.

And unbelievably it’s not only legal it’s official club policy.

Andy Morris


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