Measures to curb World Cup ticket racket

The German government said Monday that a lack of information about the identity of VIP ticket holders had opened an avenue for black-market trading.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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The German government said Monday that a lack of information about the identity of VIP ticket holders had opened an avenue for black-market trading in some of the best seats for the World Cup. Organizers insist fans will only be allowed into games with a ticket that bears their name and ID card or passport number. The measure, recommended by the European Union, is designed to exclude hooligans and curb ticket touting. But an official said Monday that the holders of some tickets sold to companies or given to sponsors for VIP guests had yet to supply the information - and admitted it was too late to fix the problem. "We are in talks with the other responsible parties in search of possibilities to bring down as far as possible the proportion of tickets that can't be personalized before the various games," Interior Ministry spokesman Stefan Kaller said. Kaller said "less than 1 million" of the 3 million tickets for the June 9-July 9 tournaments were potentially affected. Crackdown on touts Organizers are allowing fans to sell back tickets or change the name printed on them for a fee. They plan spot checks at stadiums to deter anyone from buying tickets from touts. Kaller said security could be tightened to prevent known troublemakers from using anonymous VIP tickets to gain entry. All "legal" ticket holders will get in, he said. Kaller forecast that the number of VIP tickets which would be traded illegally, for instance via Internet auction houses, would be limited because they are among the most expensive. "The prices we are talking about don't suggest it's a mass phenomenon, though some people, in certain conditions, are ready to pay extremely high prices for already very expensive tickets," he said. Official seat prices for regular fans at Berlin's Olympic Stadium range from $35 (US$45) for a first-round match to ?600 (US$764) for the final. The World Cup Organizing Committee said personalizing all tickets remained "fundamental" to its security concept. Big batches of tickets sent to German regional soccer associations and sponsors carried their name, committee vice president Horst Schmidt said. Those organizations were supplying details of the individuals who received them. Schmidt said the same rules applied to 285,000 tickets included in "hospitality packages" offered by iSE Hospitality AG, a Swiss agency contracted to FIFA. However, the firm acknowledged that it was struggling to comply. "All the customers knew" the requirements, iSE spokesman Peter Csanadi said. "But a lot of them hoped that the personalization would be dropped if the process went slowly enough." Tax concerns Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily speculated that the companies' reluctance was due to concern that the names of those receiving free tickets might reach tax authorities or even prosecutors. German prosecutors are investigating the chief executive of power firm EnBW and several state lawmakers on the suspicion that tickets, which the company gave to the politicians, were illegal perks. Schmidt insisted VIP lists would be destroyed straight after each game. "That is clearly agreed with the German security authorities," Schmidt said. Last month, a Frankfurt court ruled that a fan who bought World Cup tickets in an Internet auction was entitled to use them even though his name was not printed on them. The court said that tournament organizers had to agree to the German fan's request to change the name on the tickets because he bought them before the official trading site for fans had opened. (AP)