Ticket Touting & Football

Is there any legislation which deals with ticket touting?

The touting of tickets is huge business within the UK especially centred around the nations favourite sport – football. The vast majority of people travelling to a football match within the UK will have tickets bought from authorised sources but some will travel to the match without a ticket. This is where the touts come in often selling tickets outside the ground for vastly inflated prices. It is something we have all seen but is it actually illegal?

Legislation specifically dealing with Football Matches

The following pieces of legislation deal with ticket touting for football matches:

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

The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 makes it an offence to tout tickets for football matches by creating the following 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 Section 166 has been in place over a number of years the practice of ticket touts wishing to sell tickets for football matches has therefore evolved finding different ways to get round the legislation such as the following:

  • Offering an item of nominal value – for example a pen, scarf or pin badge – 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 – this meant that they were effectively ticket touting with a further expensive service tagged on also

As Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act was starting to become outdated and less able to combat ticket touting surrounding football matches the Government have brought in new legislation which now amends the act.

The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006

Section 53 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act came into play and amended Section 166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act by making it an offence for touts to do the following:

  • Making it an offence for newspapers to carry advertising for ticket touts
  • Preventing touts trying to claim that they are giving a ticket away free with another product
  • Applying Section 166 to those people who offer tickets with a wider hospitality/travel package
  • Applying Section 166 to those people who supply touts with tickets

Does it matter at what price the ticket is sold?

The price of the ticket sold is immaterial as to whether there has been an offence as touts often sell tickets below face value immediately prior to the match beginning. The real issue to look at here is whether public order is jeopordised and any unauthorised sale of tickets can breach public order by decreasing the segregation of supporters at football matches.

Does the sale have to be in the course of trade of business?

It used to be a requirement under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act that the sale was in the course of trade of business. This has now been removed by the Violent Crime Reduction Act as this is not a concern from a public order perspective.

Has the new legislation been effective?

The new measures were first introduced following discussions between the Home Office, the UK Football Policing Unit (UKFPU) and the various football authorities within England, Europe and Worldwide – for example the Football Association (FA), the Premier League, the Football League, UEFA and FIFA) concerning the need to strengthen the way that the authorities respond to the problem of touting and the way they have worked ways round the existing legislation. The Violent Crime Reduction Act has proved a more effective tool than the existing legislation and it has been existed by further legislation to increase the scope to include matches not only played on home soil but also those matches played abroad.

The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007

The above legislation is concerned with ticket touting for what is termed regulated football matches. The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order was introduced in 2007 to increase the definition of regulated football matches to include the following:

  • Any match involving one or more teams who are members of the Premier League, the Football League or the Football Conference

  • Every match in England or Wales in which an international team or a club side from outside of England and Wales will play

  • Every match outside of England and Wales in which a national team representing England or Wales will play

  • Every match in the UEFA Cup (or UEFA Europa League)

  • Every match in the UEFA Champions League

  • Every match in UEFA European Championships

  • Every match in FIFA World Cup Tournaments

  • Every match in the FIFA World Club Championship

This effectively means that the legislation in place to deal with ticket touting surrounding football matches applies across the board to all games played within England, all games that English sides may be involved in and all games that the national team of both England and Wales will be involved in.

This legislation is also used in conjunction with the Football Spectators Act 1989 meaning that ticket touting legislation will work in conjunction with football banning orders as they will apply to identical matches.

Are the qualifying matches for the World Cup and European Championships included?

When the legislation was being put in place the Home Office requested that both FIFA and UEFA fully define the matches for both the World Cup and the European Championships. They were both of the opinion that the qualifying stages of the tournament and the final stages of the tournament both form part of the same competition. This effectively means that the both the World Cup and the European Championships will be two year tournaments and that all matches involved during those two years will fall within the definition of a regulated football match.

International friendly matches are thus caught by the designated of matches inside or outside England and Wales in which either of those national teams will be playing.

Sentencing

A criminal conviction for ticket touting carries with it a maximum penalty of a fine of £5,000. A football banning order can also be imposed on a tout as a preventative measure.

Does the Legislation cover the unauthorised selling of tickets over the internet?

The common notion of football ticket touts is of those men selling tickets outside of the stadium in which the match will be taking place but with the internet comes added problems. Selling of tickets for football matches over the internet is now big business and so the legislation needed to be developed to deal with this.

Section 53 of the Violent Crime Reduction Act included within the definition of ticket touting trading on the internet. This would only, however, fall within the scope of the Act if any part of the transaction occurs within England and Wales as that is the limit of the Act’s territory. If this is to happen then an offence will have occurred.

What if I purchase a ticket from a foreign website?

The offence will only occur if any part of the transaction occurs within England and Wales but this does not include the actually purchasing of the ticket.

How do I know if the ticket I purchase is authorised?

If you purchase a ticket from an individual outside the ground then it is clear that he is not an authorised seller of the ticket. Again with the tickets being sold over the internet is where more problems will be encountered. Often clubs will sell through authorised agents but the only way to ensure that you purchase an authorised ticket is when you purchase directly from the club from the official website.

The World Cup

During major tournaments such as the World Cup when you purchase an authorised ticket you must provide certain information such as your name, passport number, address etc. This will be checked upon entry. If you have purchased a ticket from an unauthorised provider then these details will be incorrect and it is likely that you will not be provided with access to the stadium.

There are various official providers for tickets for this summer’s World Cup such as FIFA, the FA and the official tour operators. You must ensure that you purchase a ticket from one of these before you travel to South Africa.