A child's free pass? $500 please
Norma Connolly, Barclay Crawford and Nick Gentle
What is a children's mini-rugby complimentary pass to the Sevens worth? Exactly $500 if you ask 'Mike', a British scalper trying to save up money to replace his two front teeth.
As the tout tried to sell a pass to a hopeful punter, a father leaving the stadium with his two children offered to give a ticket away free. 'Someone gave it to me, so I think I should give it to someone else,' said the man. He described the touts' behaviour as disgraceful, especially those like Mike, trying to sell children's tickets to adults for $500.
Touts were out in force outside the Hong Kong Stadium yesterday, offering an array of tickets stamped for use or sale only by overseas travel agents, children's mini rugby and rugby unions.
One tout said he got his tickets from a travel agency in Sydney, with the help of a Hong Kong agency. 'Tickets are like gold dust this year. Last year, for the World Cup, there were loads floating about, but there's a real shortage this year,' the British scalper, who was selling tickets for $1,200 for today's games, said.
Although selling scalped tickets is illegal in Hong Kong, police rarely interfere with touts.
'The uniformed police know us by now,' he said. 'It's always the same people who come back each year. There are a few plain-clothes police around this year too who might give us a bit of trouble, but they generally leave us alone so long as we're not too blatant about it.'
Children's complimentary tickets were also being sold under the noses of police officers for up to $1,200, with some youngsters also offering their tickets for sale. Mike told the Sunday Morning Post he had sold dozens of children's complimentary tickets.
Welsh touts Carlos and Marcel claimed to have sold 500 tickets before midday for up to $1,000. After midday, they began buying pass-outs for about $100 and reselling them for up to $1,000. The pair were working with five other professional touts from Britain.
'There is good money to be made in Hong Kong because people don't care about how much they spend, they just want to get inside,' Carlos said.
The pair claimed their original stash of illegal tickets came from Britain. 'We're making plenty of money but we need to cover our hotel and flight expenses.'
One tout from a UK company said he could deliver up to 40 tickets for today's games, but he warned they were not cheap. 'You won't get any off me for less than $1,200, even if you buy a whole group,' he said. 'All I've got left is 40. Tomorrow is at a premium.'
'There is good money to be made in Hong Kong because people don't care how much they spend'