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Clubs should show secondary ticket agencies the red card

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Football club owners and CEOs are always quick to tell us fans that we can’t halt the onward march of progress. Stadiums, strips and club names are apparently up for grabs, all in the name of the free market and modernity. Don’t like it? Then you can die as soon as you like

Of course there is one situation where clubs will disregard all this – it’s known as “when it suits them” – and secondary ticket agencies are a great example.

Clubs create licensed touts by giving companies such as StubHub and Viagogo permission – for a fee – to sell their tickets at inflated prices. Fans can also sell tickets to one another using these companies, after a mark-up has been added, of course.

Legally this means you could sell a ticket to, say, your brother or sister via a third party company such as StubHub or Viagogo who then add their own fee. Sell it to your sibling at face value without the third party involvement and you’re a ticket tout who has broken the law. Madness.

This is the modern world

Twenty years ago companies might have been able to do this without competition. They’d win the contract, stick some ads in the local media, set up a distribution network, light a cigar, and count the piles of cash.

This is the modern world though and a licensing agreement with a club doesn’t grant Viagogo, StubHub, or any of these companies a free run. As the music industry and Hollywood knows, the internet doesn’t seem to respect traditional business models and licensing agreements.

More and more supporters who have a spare, or need a seat, are turning to Twitter accounts which exist to facilitate just that. Even better, the fans running these accounts often refuse to help you unless the seat is at face value.

There’s no office, no overheads and they don’t take a cut – they just use social media to put fans in touch with each other, let them do the rest, and undercut secondary ticket agencies in the process. If using social media to bypass traditional business models isn’t modern, what is?

Unsurprisingly these accounts have started to incur the wrath of clubs because they undercut the commercial deals set up. Clubs are happy for fans to sell tickets to each other at inflated prices – so long as their preferred ticketing “partner” gets a cut.

Chelsea

Last week at Chelsea the @CFCTickets Twitter said, “with regret we are shutting down cfctickets after this week being contacted by Chelsea, and the site being brought to Bruce Bucks attention”.

Chelsea Supporters Trust (CST) responded with an excellent statement which highlighted exactly why the club’s position is wrong. They aren’t the only opposition voice either, THST have been vocal opponents of Stubhub too.

While clamping down on @CFCTickets the club is happy to lie in bed with Viagogo – a company who shamelessly tried to sell tickets for last year’s Europa League final (which Chelsea played in) for more than £2,400.

CST also say that “gangs of touts” operate outside Stamford Bridge, “unchallenged and unchecked by police or Hammersmith Council”. Is it any wonder we get frustrated? Fans trying to sell tickets at face value are targeted while touts go unpunished.

Now Twitter feeds obviously aren’t the ultimate solution to this problem – fraud is an obvious risk – but it does show that there’s a massive appetite from fans for a different model to the StubHub/Viagogo one.

Clubs should cut out the middle man and run schemes themselves which allow fans to swap tickets at face value (maybe with the addition of a small admin fee to cover costs). Arsenal manage it via their Ticket Exchange.

Supporters would largely accept that – it’s ethical, tickets don’t go to waste, prices are kept down, money stays in the club, and fraud is eliminated. Doesn’t that sound pretty modern?

Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.

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