Fifa files criminal complaint against official Hong Kong Sevens ticket reseller Viagogo

Soccer’s governing body continues its crackdown on unauthorised World Cup sales at marked-up prices with the opening match just over a week away

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 9:15am

Fifa has filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against online ticket platform Viagogo – the same reseller used for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens – in its crackdown on unauthorised World Cup sales at marked-up prices.

Fifa said on Tuesday it joined other parties filing criminal complaints against alleged “opaque and deceptive business conduct” by Viagogo in the so-called secondary market.

The legal action filed on Monday was “based on a breach of the law on unfair competition against Viagogo AG with the public prosecutor’s office in Geneva”, soccer’s world governing body said in a statement.

“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,” it said.

Last week, UK’s digital minister Margo James urged the industry and fans to boycott Viagogo after it was shamed by the Advertising Standards Authority for breaking advertising rules by failing to tell consumers about “hidden” fees which significantly push up the total cost of event tickets.

The Hong Kong Rugby Union has been using Viagogo as its official ticket reseller since 2015 in a bid to counter the impact of ticket touts.

Fans who buy through unofficial platforms, including Viagogo, for World Cup games in Russia face being denied entry to stadiums.

Fifa said it would cancel all tickets it identified as being traded through unauthorised sellers.

Viagogo’s website was still selling World Cup tickets on Tuesday, including single seats for the June 14 opening game at more than double face value.

A category three ticket, the cheapest available to non-Russian residents, for Russia vs Saudi Arabia in Moscow was priced at 474 Swiss francs (HK$3,774). The same ticket bought originally through Fifa’s website would cost HK$1,726.

A ticket in a corporate hospitality section for the same game at Luzhniki Stadium was priced at 5,460 Swiss francs on the Viagogo site.

“Prices are set by sellers and may be lower or higher than face value. Prices exclude booking and delivery fees,” Viagogo notes on its World Cup sales page.

‘Ticket-touting on steroids’ – UK body surprised Hong Kong Sevens is using Viagogo as online reseller for tickets

An email seeking comment from the British-backed company was not immediately answered.

Viagogo is a platform for holders of tickets for sports events, concerts and shows worldwide to resell, typically at a profit. It has official commercial relationships with some sports teams.

Fifa’s efforts to crack down on unauthorised ticket sellers requires World Cup host nations to enact new laws. Ticket scalpers were arrested in Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro at the past two tournaments.

The latest legal step followed work with Uefa and the consumer protection agency for Switzerland’s French-speaking region to coordinate action against unauthorised platforms.

Hong Kong Sevens tickets safe to buy, assures union chief despite UK probe into online reseller Viagogo

In January, Fifa said it obtained an injunction in a Hamburg court to ban World Cup ticket sales through Viagogo’s German website.

“Any violation of the injunction by the company would be punishable by a fine of up to 250,000 (HK$2.29 million) or imprisonment for up to six months,” Fifa said in January.