Foreign touts make a killing at Sevens

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 12:00am

Scalpers are selling three-day tickets for $1,700 - more than double the face value

Foreign scalpers were last night offering three-day tickets to the sold-out Hong Kong Rugby Sevens for $1,700 - more than double the face value - with a Sunday finals ticket costing a minimum of $1,300.

All the touts offering tickets last night claimed to be overseas visitors who come to the event every year.

'Tickets here, buy and sell, tickets here,' yelled one scalper, who claimed to have flown from England for the event.

More than 20 scalpers, working in groups of three and four, were operating freely on the front steps of Hong Kong Stadium as the event kicked off last night.

'It is a sell-out ... these are hot items,' said another unauthorised ticket broker, explaining the hefty mark-up on the original $750 price. 'I'm not looking to make a fortune out of it, just enough to earn some beer money, you know what I mean?' the Londoner added. 'Everyone is offering the same price, just convert it back to pounds, it's not so much money.'

The scalper, who was working the incoming crowd with two others, said he had conducted his illicit trade outside the Hong Kong Sevens for several years. 'No, there is never much trouble,' said the man, who refused to be named. 'The police seem to turn a blind eye to it. It's all part of the sport, isn't it?'

The Hong Kong Rugby Union last night said they would heighten security and police patrols after they were alerted to the practice by the South China Morning Post.

'This is an unfortunate and unwanted measure of our success,' said a spokesman.

'And if they are found out they will be arrested by the police and dealt with harshly.'

He said the Hong Kong Rugby Union had not received any reports of organised scalping syndicates buying up huge chunks of seating in advance.

Similar scalping practices have regularly featured at world-class sporting events around the globe including football, rugby union and baseball.

Sevens authorities have vowed to stamp out the practice, saying scalpers were simply ramping up the price of tickets and potentially turning away genuine fans.

'It is not something the union condones or wishes to see happen,' said the spokesman.

'We are not aware of the scalpers buying up tickets in bulk.

'Obviously we have the situation where the event is sold-out, but we have not been inundated with disgruntled fans calling us to say they cannot get a ticket.

'Clearly if some people are desperate enough to pay $1,700 for a ticket we can only hope that they get value for money.'