Hong Kong Sevens stands by under-fire Viagogo despite Fifa’s criminal complaint against the ticket reseller
Chief executive Robbie McRobbie says the HKRU and soccer’s governing body are operating in ‘entirely different environments’
The Hong Kong Rugby Union has backed Viagogo as the official ticket reseller of the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens despite Fifa filing a criminal complaint against the company.
Fifa this week joined other parties in pursuing legal action against Viagogo for its alleged “opaque and deceptive business conduct” as part of its crackdown on those selling unauthorised World Cup tickets at increased prices.
“Fifa’s ultimate objective in the fight against the secondary ticket market is to prioritise the safety and security of fans and enforce a fair 2018 Fifa World Cup ticketing pricing scheme,” soccer’s governing body said in statement.
According to HKRU chief executive Robbie McRobbie, Fifa’s issues with Viagogo do not apply to the Hong Kong Sevens.
“The relationship between Fifa and Viagogo and the HKRU and Viagogo is entirely different,” he said. “For the World Cup, Fifa are protecting their commercial rights and those of their agents by clamping down on the unauthorised secondary market in a territory where ticket scalping is an offence.
“In Hong Kong, ticket scalping at government venues is not an offence, which in the past has lead to significant problems with touting and the sale of counterfeit tickets, defrauding local consumers.
“As such, Viagogo is fully authorised to represent our international events as authorised secondary market sellers. Both Fifa and ourselves are trying to do what is best for the spectators and the commercial interests of our events, but in entirely different environments.”
Public outrage over exorbitant prices for tickets to bands and comedians led to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suggesting in April she will look at extending ticket scalping regulations to cover government venues.
As it stands, scalping is technically only a criminal offence at private venues that hold entertainment licenses.
Viagogo is selling tickets to next week’s World Cup opener between Russia and Saudi Arabia at more than double the price.
Last week, the United Kingdom’s digital minister Margot James urged a boycott of Viagogo after it was outed by the Advertising Standards Authority for failing to tell consumers about hidden fees, but McRobbie said the HKRU had not faced that problem in Hong Kong.
Viagogo has come under fire in the UK, Australia and New Zealand for its questionable practices and was dumped as a sponsor by the Scottish Rugby Union last year.
But the HKRU’s stance has remained firm throughout, with McRobbie saying previously the union’s use of Viagogo has been successful in “ensuring that those who want to purchase tickets for the Sevens can do so with maximum convenience and confidence”.