So-called “secondary” ticketing agencies such as Viagogo and StubHub have taken a bit of a kicking in recent weeks – and fans won’t be shedding any tears for them at all.
Not everyone is familiar with these agencies so a little recap is probably in order. They’re companies who pay for a license from some clubs to sell match tickets.
The agency takes a cut so the simple fact is that supporters pay more for tickets than necessary. However, it’s not only financial factors which aggravate fans. There’s a moral dimension too.
As Martin Cloake points out in a superb blog on Spurs’ deal with StubHub, “If you give a spare ticket to a member of your family or a friend for nothing, you can be banned from the ground.
“If you sell your ticket for face value outside the ground, you can be arrested and banned. But if you sell your ticket for five times face value on StubHub, you do so with the club’s blessing.”
As often seems to be the case German supporters have taken a lead on this. An astonishing 10,000 Schalke 04 fans turned up to the club’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday 29th June and “almost exclusively” debated the club’s controversial tie-up with Viagogo.
At the AGM 80% of members voted against the three-year deal. “Schalke have terminated the contract with ticket reseller Viagogo without notice due to repeated breaches of the contract terms,” tweeted fans feed @Schalke_UK.
FSF Chair Malcolm Clarke and many others have said secondary markets are “legalised touting”. In November 2012 the Manchester Evening News reported derby tickets being sold, through “official” Viagogo channels, for more than £100. Face value was £54 (hardly a bargain itself, we know).
Inspired by the example of Schalke 04, Manchester City fans have fought back with a campaign and petition which calls on the club to “do the right thing [and] terminate any dealings with legalised touts Viagogo.”
As a member-owned club Schalke 04 fans can dictate club policy. City supporters will have to rely on lobbying, the strength of their argument and the support of as many fellow fans as possible.
Writing on the Stand Against Modern Football blog, City fan Adam Keyworth acknowledges that his club has had a spectacular time of it lately but the deal with Viagogo “leaves a sour taste amongst many other sweeter moments”.
Just because fans oppose their clubs using the likes of StubHub or Viagogo, it doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for an ethical model which simply helps fans buy or sell tickets at face value (or under).
With the best will in the world there’s always going to be someone who can’t make a match and it seems a shame for that ticket to go to waste, especially at sold out games.
All sorts of club specific websites and Twitter feeds have popped up in recent years which aim to do just that. Adam Keyworth himself runs one for City fans. (Tagline: “The UNOFFICIAL fair and ethical fan2fan Ticket Exchange for MCFC fans home & away. Face Value only, NO fees.”)
While many are done with thoroughly good intentions there’s always going to be the odd shady operator, so a little more guaranteed security for fans wouldn’t go amiss.
And that’s where clubs can step in. They just need a gentle nudge in the right direction from fans and campaigns like Adam’s can be the catalyst for that.
We think some people within the football industry are starting to come to the conclusion that these agencies are more hassle than they’re worth.
Can superior models, such as fan-to-fan exchanges, or club systems which charge a small admin fee, not be explored?
That has to be better than the current model which is unjust, pushes up prices (without the club necessarily benefitting) and probably doesn’t generate that much cash for clubs anyway, in the context of a £5bn media deal.
And all the while it hacks off a significant chunk of match-going fans. Is it really worth the bother? We don’t think so.