x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sevens organisers promise to thwart the ticket touts

Official tickets were sold out weeks in advance, giving rise to a black market in which prices soared.

DUBAI // Organisers of the Dubai Sevens rugby competition have pledged to tackle illegal touts after tickets to the event changed hands for up to seven times their face value. People arriving at the 50,000-capacity The Sevens ground were approached by illegal hawkers, and several websites offered ticket resales in the run-up to the tournament.

Official tickets were sold out weeks in advance, giving rise to a black market in which prices soared. Donal Kilalea, from event organisers Promoseven, said the company was looking to work with security contractors and the police to stop the practice before the World Cup sevens event in March. Mr Kilalea said that reselling tickets was prohibited and made them invalid. "We first noticed ticket touts last year. Even with the increased capacity of the new sevens stadium, we still cannot satisfy demand for tickets and unfortunately this has led to tickets being resold illegally.

"As well as touts at the ground, we have been monitoring the sale of tickets on websites. We believe they are acting illegally by enabling the resale of tickets and have been working to prevent them from advertising the tickets. "We managed to buy back many tickets and trace the source of the purchases. This has enabled us to create a blacklist who will be prohibited from ever buying tickets for any sevens event.

"We don't want to be forced to go down the route of the Olympics where everyone purchasing a ticket has to submit passport copies. However, we will look at the allocation of tickets. Currently an individual can purchase up to 10 tickets. Reducing this to four could limit the capacity for the illegal resale." Ticket touting is rife in Europe. British police have used closed-circuit video and databases to monitor and charge offenders. At the last football World Cup, in Germany, tickets were printed with individual names and proof of identity had to produced to enter the grounds.

At the Beijing Olympics one individual caught reselling tickets for a profit was fined US$65,000 (Dh239,000) and jailed for two and a half years. Touts have increasingly used the anonymity of the internet as a lower risk strategy to sell tickets. Popular auction websites have been criticised by events organisers for allowing the resale of tickets. Mr Kilalea said the use of established websites lulled fans into believing that buying tickets there was legal.

"It is not acceptable that websites are allowed to resell these tickets. Of course they claim they merely provide the site and do not benefit from the sales themselves. We have warned the websites involved but legally it is problematic, particularly if the sites are based in other countries." Dubizzle, a local website, allowed tickets to be sold. Sim Whatley, from Dubizzle, said sellers were responsible for ensuring that they were not acting illegally.

"In our terms and conditions, sellers have to confirm that they have the right to sell any item they post on Dubizzle. They therefore accept personal liability. We routinely monitor the site and will remove any items we think are inappropriate. We have not had any dialogue with the organisers of Dubai Sevens about sale of the tickets." tbrooks@thenational.ae