UK scalpers win the scrum for Sevens tickets

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 February, 2010, 12:00am

Next month's Hong Kong Sevens may be a sell-out - as usual - but a British agency is still offering rugby fans tickets for up to HK$3,300.

All tickets are classed as 'unreserved seating within the Hong Kong Stadium', its website says, and 'all tickets will be posted to our customers in early March'.

'Through our many sources we are able to get a wide range of tickets for almost any event in any city,' the agency, Mancunian Tickets, boasts. 'We use a wide range of specialist and trusted suppliers worldwide, and we guarantee your tickets at the time of purchase,' it says.

Repeated attempts to reach the agency - which is based in Cheshire, northern England - by phone were unsuccessful.

A spokesman for the tournament's organiser, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU), said: 'The [unauthorised] online selling of tickets is a problem facing sports and entertainment events around the world. We do put in place safeguards to try to stem this abuse, but it is very difficult to completely control.'

The agency's prices for the city's sporting showpiece range from GBP40 (HK$480) for a ticket to the event's first day, Friday March 26, to GBP275 for a full three-day ticket. That Sevens tickets are being sold online will likely anger rugby fans in Hong Kong who missed out on the 5,000 locally available tickets when they were sold online last month.

Many complained that they had not been able to get through to the website. They may now suspect that some of those who did manage to buy tickets did so for the purpose of reselling them.

Some of those left without a ticket have called for the HKRFU to return to the system of having people queue at a ticket office - and to ditch the lottery of buying online - after the website was unable to cope with the huge demand for tickets, leaving a lot of people disappointed.

Fans would queue overnight at Hong Kong Stadium in an attempt to lay their hands on the much-sought-after tickets.

'I know that scalpers will always be hard to stop, but you can't help but feel short-changed by it all,' Dougie Ford, from Happy Valley, said.

'It's not that I won't get a ticket - I always do in the end, but the fact that these scalpers are well enough organised to do this kind of thing is really infuriating. I hope they can be stopped in the future.'

Not that restoring the queueing system would stamp out the curse of ticket scalping, either. In previous years scalpers from Britain have flown out especially to buy tickets.

In the past the Post has been made aware that scalpers made the most of cheap flights on the likes of the now defunct Oasis Airlines, to get to the ticket sales. Working in groups of three and four, scalpers queued up in the early hours of the morning for tickets.

In a coincidence that is curious given the operations of Mancunian Tickets, most scalpers spoke with Mancunian - or Manchester - accents.

As in past years, the HKRFU made 5,000 tickets available to members of the public who are not directly involved in local rugby.

Combined with ticket sales to members of local rugby clubs and other rugby stakeholders - such as sponsors and patrons - fully 75 per cent of the 40,000 event tickets were supposed to be sold solely to Hong Kong residents.

The remaining tickets were to be sold overseas.

Mancunian Tickets says on its website that it is a member of ASTA (Association of Secondary Ticket Agents), established in October 2005. The association's constitution was ratified in January 2006 and it represents companies engaged in the selling of tickets to entertainment and sporting events, the website says.