Time for me to get irked.
For years my friends had bought concert tickets. They mentioned having to be online at 4am so as to be able to get their hands on them. They talked of stress due to server crashes and bank cards being rejected, swore because they were left in a queue for hours with no tickets left when they got into the system, boasted about one of the tricks being to open several tabs at the same time so as to have more chances of entering the site. With other friends they all connected at the same time and whoever got tickets first would tell the rest so they needn’t bother.
My first experience of this kind of ticketing system was for the World Cup in Brazil where there were several phases in which to buy tickets. One type was a lottery in which you select the games you want before a given date and tickets are allocated to successful applicants at random, or the second more stressful First Come First Served tickets. I got mine in both ways, followed the snippets I’d heard from friends, and suffered in much the same way too.
In the end I got my hands on Colombia vs Greece for two people, Costa Rica vs England, and Winner C vs Runner-up D. A decent haul and I would’ve been content, except that server crashes prevented me picking up tickets for all the Rio de Janeiro games. I’d have had them all except the final. I’d never been so happy to have an online shopping basket so full and relatively expensive. But that ecstasy was somewhat dashed. As had always been planned, I was to be based in Rio, but two of the games would be played in Belo Horizonte, a 7-hour bus ride away. Not ideal, but they would suffice. I was going to World Cup games!
As you can see, I got my tickets through the official platform, and went through stressful moments to do so. I noticed FIFA’s promise that tickets could not be resold except via their website and believed them when they said that documents matching the name on the ticket would have to be shown when entering stadiums.
Fast-forward a few months and that wasn’t the case. Tickets only had to be flashed through a machine to gain access, no questions asked, no I.D demanded. Later on I met a Mexican called Vincent Courtouis and some Brazilian men called Hilary Green and Robert Jones, if you get my drift.
Ticket-touting was rife at the World Cup and tickets seemed so easy to get hold of second-hand. People along Copacabana beach, loads of second-hand websites, Facebook forums and Twitter updates negotiating the resale of these multicoloured bits of card with barcodes on them. Hearing about people selling tickets at two or three times face value made me angry, seeing forums where people listed dozens of tickets they wanted to exchange even before the tournament had begun pissed me off.
All those people who had suffered like me to get tickets, and not necessarily got all the ones they wanted, and here were people thousands of miles away in some cases, doing what they would call business, scamsters ripping off genuine football fans.
A friend of mine resold his Costa Rica vs England ticket through the FIFA platform and was immediately reimbursed, minus 10%, proof that it did indeed work, but he was certainly in the minority.
Maybe I’m a little naive and should just accept that touting goes hand-in-hand with big sporting and music events, yet something inside wanted to see throngs of people denied access to stadiums because their documents didn’t match the name on the ticket. FIFA would have been totally in the right, as they’d warned of this eventuality in their ticket guidelines.
Those that paid over the odds for tickets aren’t completely blameless. For every person that tried to get hold of tickets through the correct channels, there was another who was adamant on just turning up in Brazil and finding a way of buying them. As far as I’m concerned, they deserved to pay more.
I’ve heard the argument about fans not knowing how far their team will get in the tournament, thus being reluctant to buy tickets in advance, especially if they were in faraway places. Remember how huge Brazil is. They wait to see how their country does and then desperately hunt for a ticket. Fans of Costa Rica would probably have found themselves in this situation. In a previous post, I talk of the need to have fans of the teams playing in the stadiums. If everyone pre-booked and never re-sold tickets, this couldn’t happen.
But remember that FIFA has the reselling platform. It would involve lots of rushing and stress, and perhaps logistical complications, but if the tickets were resold at face value through the official platform, it would be a lot fairer. FIFA could even hold back tickets until the teams in the knockout phase are known. Tight schedules, server collapses and a touch of mayhem, yes, but no ripping off.
I was happy to see ticket touts and even those buying tickets arrested. Do it all the time I say. Punish both the buyers and sellers. That way we’d lose these leeches.
“It’s business and a fact of life,” some would tell me. I disagree. Protect the spectator.