Fifa files criminal complaint against Viagogo
Resale website has been accused of opaque and deceptive business conduct by Fifa
Fifa filed a criminal complaint against the secondary ticketing firm Viagogo’s sale of 2018 World Cup tickets, opening a new battle between sports organisations and websites seeking a share of their profits. Photo: Getty Images
Fifa has filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against the ticket website Viagogo as part of a crackdown on unauthorised World Cup sales.
The move by football’s world governing body, shortly after an undercover investigation by the Guardian revealed Viagogo’s involvement in the illegal resale of football tickets in the UK, represents the latest in a line of legal challenges to the company’s business practices. Last week, a UK government minister urged consumers to boycott Viagogo as National Trading Standards launched an investigation into allegations that it has persistently misled consumers, while the Competition and Markets Authority has separately threatened the company with court action.
In the run-up to the tournament in Russia this summer, Fifa said it had “received numerous complaints from individuals, consumer protection bodies and other market players over the opaque and deceptive business conduct of Viagogo AG”.
The governing body said its website was the only official and legitimate seller of World Cup tickets, and any bought through Viagogo would be cancelled once identified.
However, on Tuesday, Viagogo’s Swiss website was selling tickets for more than 50 of the matches, including the first three England games against Tunisia, Panama and Belgium.
Prices for England’s opening Group G match against Tunisia, at the Volgograd arena on June 18th, range from €63 to €142 a ticket, according to Viagogo.
For the match against Belgium in Kaliningrad on June 28th, tickets are priced at up to €431 each, while for the final in Moscow on July 15th, the site is offering category one tickets for up to €3,793 each.
However, while the listings can be viewed and the prices can be viewed in sterling, UK-based fans appear to be currently unable to buy World Cup tickets via the website. A message to would-be purchasers states: “We are sorry, the page you are trying to access is not available to customers in your country.”
The site added that “prices are set by sellers and may be below or above face value”.
As part of its efforts to protect fans, Fifa said it had this week filed a criminal complaint against Viagogo with the public prosecutor’s office in Geneva, “based on a breach of the law on unfair competition”.
The governing body said it decided to take action “after aligning with other stakeholders that have already filed criminal complaints … due to the company’s unfair business practices”.
“Tickets purchased via unauthorised distribution channels, including all tickets purchased through Viagogo AG, will be cancelled once identified. Fifa reserves the right to refuse entry to the stadium to any holder of such tickets,” Fifa added. Strict admission checks would be carried out, it said.
While it is a major player in the UK ticket resale industry, the company, which has been no stranger to controversy over its business practices, has an address in Geneva.
In 2016, European football’s governing body, Uefa, also filed a criminal complaint against Viagogo over illegal ticket sales at Euro 2016, prompting a raid by French police on a hotel where the company’s agents were handing out tickets.
Viagogo did not comment. – Guardian service