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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Murky World of Touting Partners

KEIOC has received an incredible response to our recent article on the online secondary ticket market or if you prefer, in plain English, ticket touting.

A tout obtains a ticket at one price then sells at a higher price, pocketing the difference, and running the risk of being arrested, whilst an approved company in the secondary ticket market promotes the sale of a ticket at any price and pockets a substantial commission from buyer and seller, so what's the difference and who's the loser in all of this? Ultimately there is no difference and it's the ordinary fan, the fan the clubs and the Premier League are purporting to help by cutting the cost of watching football but who's being priced out of the game once again; at least Dick Turpin had the courtesy to wear a mask.  If it looks, walks and quacks like a duck it’s a duck, no need for convoluted descriptions such as “our partners in the secondary ticketing market” it’s legalised touting, plain and simple.

It’s legal due to a technicality in the law that concerns the resale of football tickets. Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act states that it is 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 for which you may be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and have a football banning order imposed. Unauthorised being the key word as by entering into an agreement, thereby becoming an authorised partner, this law is circumvented.

Some fans will see nothing wrong with this form of touting, they’ll claim that it’s perfectly legal, as is tax avoidance, and as long as it’s legal and Everton are earning money what could possibly be wrong? They see nothing wrong in something being morally wrong as long as it’s legal. So advertising cigarettes at sports events was acceptable when it was legal but became unacceptable when it became illegal? Racism was perfectly acceptable when it wasn’t illegal as was throwing kids up chimneys, the good old days, let’s get back to them as quick as possible. Touting is wrong no matter what you prefer to call it. legal or illegal.

Everton’s three year commercial deal with StubHub, with income estimates ranging from £1.6m a season to the same over the term of the contract, is claimed to be the largest commercial deal, excluding shirt sponsorship and retail, in the club’s history which, to be fair, isn’t exactly a difficult target to beat when you consider that Everton managed to sign away their kit supply deal for nothing whilst Liverpool earn £25m a season, Spurs £10m, Arsenal 13m, in fact everyone beats Everton’s square root of nothing kit supply deal through Kitbag which apparently is a great deal too!

The real problem is more long term, ask yourself why the two largest players in the legal touting business, StubHub and Viagogo have already struck deals with 40% of the premiership? StubHub being Everton’s second Secondary Touting Partner, as Viagogo, being the first, under Keith Wyness, disappeared faster than an "interested party" in our chairman's fervid imagination.

The 40% of the league who have authorised partners include Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, Manchester City, Newcastle United, Sunderland and Spurs. Where is this going to end? Outsourcing of all ticketing? An official Premier League endorsed partnership? Modern print at home technology means far more flexability but is this technology about to be exploited by the legalised touts and is this good for the fans and the best deal for the clubs?

You’d be surprised what a little research brings up, it's not always good for the clubs either. The American MLB season can see 81 home games with the less attractive games available on Stubhub at prices undercutting the host club whilst the more attractive fixtures costs their fans an arm and a leg. Some clubs aren't embracing the official league partnership with StubHub and the situation is far more complex than the simplistic and superficial perception on the availability of apparently cheap tickets with more astute observers beginning to understand exactly what is going on here.

Wouldn't it be better for the fans and the clubs to set their prices at an affordable level and remove the parasite causing all the problems from the equation?

To claim that it is the fans that set the price, and nothing whatsoever to do with the club or the tout, is as embarrassing as watching them run for cover in the face of criticism or actually naively believing that the free market will regulate prices.

You may be interested in watching the activities of one of the aforementioned “authorised partners” in this excellent video and thanks for the overwhelming responses to our article, rest assured, we'll be fighting for the ordinary supporter on this one.

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