24 July 2014

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Hospitality Viewpoint - Unfair Game


As ticket touting continues to play havoc with the hospitality industry, Cavendish Hospitality MD Simon Gillespie considers possible solutions

rex_420385bX.jpgX.jpg The recent UEFA Champions League Final ticket fiasco, which saw Liverpool fans refused access to the Olympic Stadium in Athens as fake ticket holders took their seats, has revived discussions about the issues surrounding secure ticketing for large events. Not only did it emphasise that forgery and touting are still very real problems, but it also went some way to illustrate just how hard they are to tackle.

If troubles like these can’t even be prevented when one of the world’s most affluent sports organisations stages a match in a brand new, purpose-built arena, what hope is there of achieving acceptable standards in the wider industry? It is a dilemma that has been tormenting event organisers for years, yet the sector remains largely unregulated.

Counterfeiting is, of course, illegal. But, despite new legislation that puts the UK at the forefront of the fight against ticket touting, the only such activity that currently equates to a criminal offence in this country is the re-sale of football tickets (other sports and entertainments aren’t covered by the law).

Instead, the legal position places emphasis on the need for ticket purchasers to vet suppliers ahead of any purchase. If you’ve paid an unscrupulous agency for tickets that don’t live up to expectations – or, worse, fail to materialise at all – the fault, legally speaking, is entirely your own.

So what can consumers do to protect themselves? Well, the golden rule is to always ask where tickets come from and never buy from an unofficial source. Host venues should be able to offer a full list of ticket and hospitality suppliers for their events but, when in doubt, it can be worth consulting an industry organisation like Eventia (tel: 0870 112 6970).

As official operators always pay some level of royalty to the events they represent, it is ultimately the sports (or types of entertainment) themselves that tend to suffer when sales move onto the ‘black market’. Hence, most sectors are more than willing to participate in some form of self-regulation.

Their approach, however, has been anything but uniform. While the new Wembley Stadium has taken its entire hospitality programme in-house and only sells corporate entertainment packages through its ‘Club Wembley’ membership scheme, Twickenham (or, rather the Rugby Football Union) opted for a more inclusive route. Rather than trying to close down the unofficial hospitality agents operating outside the stadium, it invited them to join a licensing scheme, resulting in a more accessible official hospitality programme, as well as increased revenue for the RFU.

Glastonbury delivered a big blow to touts when it announced all tickets for this summer’s festival would carry photos of individual holders (who had to register their pictures before even applying for passes). It may have sounded like a logistical nightmare but the sales process went surprisingly smoothly, thanks to the now widespread use of digital photography, which allowed applicants to register online.

Technology could well be the ultimate weapon with which to fight ‘black market’ operators. As football clubs begin to replace season tickets with smart cards and mobile phone companies suggest text-messaged bar codes as an alternative to paper tickets, there would certainly be less of a tangible product for touts to sell. Until then, the old adage ‘let the buyer beware’ is still the best advice. V&E

Cavendish Hospitality, tel: 020 8567 3530, squaremeal.co.uk/cav-hosp

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Summer 2007.

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