Written by Maggie Pagano
At the time of writing, there are 184 tickets priced at about £170 each for sale on the Viagogo ticketing site for this Saturday’s Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham.
There are another 100 or so tickets selling for more than a £1000 each for the big beast of a match between England and Scotland on the following Saturday. For rugby fans, desperate to watch England thrash the Italians and Scots – sorry Ed – those prices sound fair game.
But here’s the problem. Fans who have bought their tickets on Viagogo – or other sites such as StubHub – may be risking their money for nothing and may not be allowed into the stadium.
This is the official statement from the Rugby Football Union: “We are urging fans not to risk their money or potentially being refused entry by using either unauthorised re-selling platforms or buying tickets and hospitality through unofficial means.”
The RFU goes on: “Viagogo and StubHub have no association or official arrangement with the RFU and often market tickets which do not exist on a speculative basis and at inflated prices.”
“Any tickets purchased through the RFU for England internationals can only be resold in accordance with the terms and conditions. The RFU actively monitors secondary ticketing sites and regularly cancels tickets that are sold or transferred via the secondary market in breach of the terms and conditions.”
Indeed, the RFU adds that it provides the means for ticket holders to resell tickets through an online ticket exchange for clubs and via the ticket office at Twickenham Stadium, which allows tickets to be resold to other fans at face value.
But the Geneva-based Viagogo disagrees. A spokesman tells us: “The terms and conditions that the RFU and others have placed on their tickets is not only unfair, but in our view illegal.”
He added: “Once someone has bought a ticket, they own it and it’s up to them what they do with it.”
So what should rugby fans do? Take the risk and buy a ticket and face being turned away? Not only does the RFU say it will refuse entry to fans who buy their tickets on the secondary sites but it is also threatening to take action against any clubs, schools or members who have been allocated tickets, costing as little as £20.
The situation is getting out of hand: Rugby fans, or indeed the thousands of people buying tickets to opera or rock on these secondary sites, are buying them in good faith.
The platforms themselves are not setting the prices – they act as peer to peer platforms – but the ticket sellers themselves.
As you would expect, the regulators and politicians are getting twitchy about these platforms because of some of the outrageous prices that tickets sell for – one ticket to watch Michelle Obama on her recent tour was bought for £70,000. If someone wants to pay that much to see Obama or indeed pay the £3,500 that tickets were selling at the Royal Opera House for Verdi’s opera La forza del destino, should they not be allowed to do so? Not according to the politicians who want to clamp down and ban secondary sites. There is without question a case for making the resale of tickets far more transparent and ticket buyers should be told their rights.
But the question they should be asking is who is selling the tickets for these events to the secondary platforms?
The tickets have to be coming from somewhere: If the RFU and the Royal Opera House don’t want their tickets to be resold, then surely they need to control who buys them in the first place and make more available for the general public rather than their corporate sponsors.
As the secondary sites claim in their defence, it must be the promoters who are selling the tickets to the platforms once they have allocated them to their corporate sponsors and other hospitality guests.
There’s no doubt that secondary ticketing is in a mess, one that needs clarifying for the sake of Joe public who appears to be more than prepared to fork out for big events like the RFU.
More pertinently, the RFU should look at its own allocation processes – there are 82,000 seats at Twickenham and at the recent England France match, some 11,500 places were set aside for England Rugby Hospitality and another 1,640 tickets were reserved for guests of commercial sponsors.
Less than a fifth of all tickets went to debenture holders while clubs, schools and colleges and other groups, including visiting rugby union members, RFU staff and former players, had the rest. According to one report, only 3,280 tickets – were allocated to rugby fans. That sounds a ridiculously small number.
For their part, Viagogo and StubHub need to make sure that they are spotless in how they obtain these tickets otherwise they will find the regulators trying to put them out of business. The Competition and Markets Authority is already on their case. In a new move yesterday, the competition watchdog said it is preparing legal action against Viagogo, claiming that it has refused to comply with a court order served in November 2018. Viagogo denies that it is in breach of the court order.
Having an efficient second-hand market for tickets – as eBay has shown so well for everything you can imagine- should be a win-win for all concerned. But all sides in this controversy need to get their heads together to sort out a level playing field.
This article was originally published on Reaction.Life