The Cost of Happiness

**Picture the scene**

Liverpool beat Barcelona 4-0 in an unlikely comeback to win their Champions League semi-final tie and set up an all English final with Tottenham. In a rush of pure ecstasy and drunken stupor a Liverpool fan, let’s call him Mo, decides that this is a unique opportunity to see their team win the coveted trophy. “That’s it” they say, Klopp seems to think we’ll win, “I’m going to Madrid for the final last minute!”. With Karius’ errors long forgotten and the excitement of 2005 still palpable in the air Mo finds a second-hand ticket for the match going on a resale website and books his hotel and plane ticket.

One month later… the Liverpool fan arrives back home to Merseyside from Madrid, grinning from ear to ear after their Champion’s League victory. Their partner asks “How was your weekend darling?” Mo breaks into song, “We’ve conquered all of Europe…”.

Two weeks later… the bank statement comes through the door and reads something like this: (Information correct as of 28th May 2019)

Flights (For Saturday morning to Sunday Night)

Screenshot 2019-05-28 at 21.36.29.png

3 *** Hotel (For Saturday 1st)

Screenshot 2019-05-28 at 21.32.02.png

2nd hand ticket for the match

Screenshot 2019-05-28 at 21.34.53

Unfortunately, as you can see Mo’s bank statement doesn’t make very happy reading. In fact he’s spent €11,627. Say goodbye to that dream car he was saving for. No more holidays for the next decade. No presents for his nieces at Christmas. Mo is broke.

Mo’s story isn’t unfamiliar and unfortunately many fans have to break the bank to watch their team play. If Mo had been a bit more organised he would have been able to get tickets at a cheaper price through Liverpool who were allocated 16,000 tickets or through the public ballot. 16,000 were allocated to Spurs fans with the remaining tickets of the 63,500 capacity stadium allocated to the local organising committee, UEFA and national associations, commercial partners and broadcasters and to serve the corporate hospitality programme. Over the weekend there were several people holding up signs reading “Buying ticket!” but they didn’t seem to have much luck. Here are what some Liverpool fans had to say about the lack of tickets for fans:

“The ticket prices are crazy and why are fans being allocated a quarter of stadium capacity? Fans are being short changed in the modern game,”

“I know we can’t influence this, but 16,000 tickets is a joke. 68,000 capacity. 32,000 to fans.”

Many fans were forced to turn to ticket touts as their only chance of attending the match…

Ticket Touting in the UK

The practice of ‘ticket touting’, where tickets for events are bought and sold at higher  prices is commonplace within the UK. If you go to any sports event you’ll often see people standing around selling their tickets to ticketless punters. Did you know that it’s actually illegal? The following legislation deal with ticket touting for football matches:

  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPOA 1994)
  • Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 (VCRA 2006)
  • Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Section 166 of CJPOA 1994 made it an offence for an unauthorised person to:

  • Sell a ticket for a designated football match or
  • Otherwise to dispose of such a ticket to another person

As s166 has been in place for a number of years, ticket tout practices evolved to find ways round the legislation. This included:

  • Offering an item (like a pen) at an inflated price with the inclusion of a ‘free’ match ticket
  • Offering tickets in exchange for other goods or services
  • Offering unauthorised hospitality style packages with a ticket included

As s166 of CJPOA 1994 became less able to combat ticket touting in football, the government brought in new legislation to bring the law up to speed.

Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006

Section 53 of VCRA 2006 amended s166 of CJPOA 1994 and continues the fight against ticket touts. It is now an offence:

  • For newspapers to carry advertising for ticket touts
  • For touts to claim that they are giving a ticket away free with another product
  • For touts to offer tickets with a wider hospitality/travel package
  • To supply touts with tickets

It doesn’t matter whether the tout is making a profit or a loss. The crux of the issue is whether public order has been jeopordised. For example, by selling tickets to stray fans you might end up with rival supporters sat next to each other, which might lead to conflict. Just imagine one lone Arsenal fan proudly wearing his team’s colours in a sea of Spurs supporters; I don’t think they’d stand a chance!

Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007

The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order was introduced in 2007 to increase the definition of regulated football matches to include:

  • Matches involving one or more teams who are members of the Premier League, the Football League or the Football Conference
  • Matches in England or Wales in which an international team or a club side from outside of England and Wales will play
  • Matches outside of England and Wales in which a national team representing England or Wales will play
  • Matches in the Europa League, Champions League, European Championships, FIFA World Cup Tournaments and FIFA World Club Championships.

But Mo bought his ticket on the internet?

Section 53 of VCRA 2006 includes trading on the internet within the definition of ticket touting. An offence would only arise, however, if any part of the transaction occurs within England and Wales as that is the limit of the Act’s territory. If convicted, ticket touting carries a maximum penalty fine of £5,000 and a football banning order as a preventative measure. In a statement on their official website last Tuesday morning, Tottenham confirmed they had “issued indefinite bans to three season-ticket holders” who had offered their tickets “on a secondary ticketing platform.” Perhaps a better way of protecting consumers while combating ticket touts is to offer more tickets to fans than sponsors?

Touting also poses other dangers as criminals flog fake tickets to fans. A statement from European football’s governing body Uefa read:

“Uefa has warned fans of the high number of fake tickets being sold on the black market in advance of the 2019 Uefa Champions League final in Madrid.” It continued,“It is believed that there is a high number of fake tickets in circulation and arrests have already been made in a clampdown on bogus tickets. Holders of forged tickets will not be allowed into the stadium.”

On their website Liverpool’s CL final tickets were on sale from £60 up to £513 so yes, maybe Mo could have avoided the hefty second-hand illegal ticket price but the expensive airfares were inevitable and Liverpool’s mayor was quick to call out airline easyJet for raising their prices:

Screenshot 2019-05-28 at 23.10.34

Fans were quick to side with the Mayor responding: “Sudden increase in charges ought to be made illegal. Pure greed and mean spirited.” Another commented, “Should change their name to Easycash…Feeding off LFC success again!” Easyjet responded, “We use dynamic pricing, meaning our prices rise as each seat is sold. Unfortunately for you these flights were released months ago, which is why the price is higher now, not because we’ve raised them overnight. Hope you manage to find something suitable.”

It seems that EasyJet were quick to blame capitalism for the prices. Mo didn’t really have a choice in how to get to Madrid, or did he? Maybe he could have run there! To put Easyjet’s stance in perspective, roughly the same prices exactly two weeks later for accommodation and flights look like this:

Screenshot 2019-05-29 at 10.36.19.png

Hotel: The hotel prices have been hiked up from €168 to €1,350 which is an increase of 800%.

Flight: £300 is around €340 so British Airways raising their price to €1,882 is an increase of around 550%.

We get it, being a football fan is tough, happiness is expensive.

I know all this sounds pretty terrible but imagine being a Chelsea or Arsenal fan going to the Europa League Final… they were only given 3,000 tickets each and there were no direct flights to Baku where the game was held!

Justin Humphries

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