Fifa World Cup organisers to crack down on counterfeiters after Chinese fans holding fraudulent tickets turned away from match
The tournament’s chief executive promises swift action to those trying to sell fake tickets after 30 fans from the mainland are denied entry to Argentina-Iceland game
Alexey Sorokin, the chief executive of Russia’s World Cup organising committee, has promised anyone involved in selling counterfeit tickets will feel the full force of the country’s justice system after Chinese fans were denied entry to a match earlier in the tournament.
Reports in China claim 30 fans bought tickets for Argentina’s meeting with Iceland at Spartak Stadium on June 16 from Moscow-based company Anzhi, only to be turned away at the turnstiles when it was discovered the tickets were fake.
The batch was among a total of around 3,500 fraudulent tickets allegedly sold into Chinese travel agencies and Sorokin stressed that the tournament’s local organisers would be seeking to punish those responsible.
“I don’t have accurate information, but I’ve heard that a criminal case has opened and I don’t know which entity this was opened against,” Sorokin told the South China Morning Post.
“But if there is any entity – be that Russian or foreign – that is involved in criminal activities with tickets there is proper legislation in place and the investigation will determine whose fault it is and then it goes to court.
“It’s the same procedure here as in any other country.”
The 3,500 fake tickets sold to Chinese fans are believed to be among a batch of around 10,000 that have been distributed globally by the Russian company. Despite that number, Sorokin claims the issue of counterfeit tickets is not a major concern for tournament organisers, who have welcomed over 700,000 fans from around the world to Russia so far.
“It doesn’t come to our attention a lot,” he said. “The tickets are well protected both by adequate prices and by proper measures on the ticket, plus the Fan ID is another indirect way of controlling illicit activities with tickets. It’s not been overwhelming.”
The fans affected by the purchase of fake tickets are among more than 100,000 Chinese who have travelled to Russia during the World Cup finals, with more than 40,000 purchasing legitimate tickets via Fifa’s official website prior to the tournament’s start. Swelling that number further are fans who have bought tickets that are part of Fifa’s official hospitality packages.
Chinese passport holders are entitled to 14-day visa-free travel to Russia and that has made it easier for thousands from the mainland to visit the country while the World Cup is being held, despite the national team’s absence from the championship.
Russia has long been a popular destination for Chinese tourists and Sorokin claimed the mainland had not been targeted in an attempt to boost ticket sales in light of diminished numbers from many western European nations.
“China’s our neighbour,” he said. “The Chinese are good travellers all around the world and this summer has coincided with the World Cup and clearly there is interest in football in this country, which is growing.
“But under normal circumstances there are a lot of Chinese who just visit our country as tourists. At some Russian airports there are announcements made in Chinese because of the large volume of tourists who come from that country.
“We did not target any specific country. Our effort was equally dispersed throughout the world and we just wanted – for those who wanted to come – we wanted to make the best conditions for them to make their stay comfortable and to leave a good impression on them.”