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Ticket touts bid to scupper Labour resale reforms

At a private event, touts reportedly pledged £73k for political lobbying to "fight back" against Sir Keir Starmer's plans for new legislation

By James Hanley on 29 May 2024

Keir Starmer


image © Chris McAndrew

Ticket touts hatched secret plans to sabotage Labour’s bid to cap ticket resale if the party wins the next UK general election, according to a new report.

Footage filmed by the Guardian shows touts and representatives of secondary ticketing platforms such as Viagogo, StubHub and Vivid Seats discussing the proposals at a private event in London, organised by US-based lobby group the Coalition for Ticket Fairness (CTF) and sponsored by Swiss marketplace Gigsberg. Guests paid $240 (€222) each to be in attendance.

At the gathering, touts reportedly pledged £73,000 to hire a “bulletproof” political lobbyist to target MPs after CTF UK president Tony McGowen told guests they could help “guide parliament and to fight back against all the bullshit that a Labour government potentially want to throw at us”.

“We are going to fight parliament, we’re going to fight government,”  he said, “because if we don’t, bottom line is we are all fucked.”

Jason Berger of CTF US added: “It takes a long time to change a law. It’s a lot easier to … stop the law from being written.”

“A Labour government will cap resale prices so fans can see the acts that they love at a fair price”

The event took place in the wake of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s recent vow to restrict the resale of tickets at more than a small, set percentage above face value should his party triumph at July’s general election.

The proposed legislation would also limit the number of tickets individual resellers can list and make platforms accountable for the accuracy of information about tickets they list. In addition, it would ensure watchdog the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has the powers to take action against platforms and touts to protect consumers.

“We can’t let access to culture be at the mercy of ticket touts who drive up the prices,” Sir Keir told the Labour Creatives Conference in March. “So a Labour government will cap resale prices so fans can see the acts that they love at a fair price.”

The lobbyist whom the CTF said it had selected told the Guardian they had met with the group over a year ago but would never agree to work for it.

In a statement to the newspaper, the CTF said it was “not currently engaged in any lobbying activities in the UK” and has “no timeline to begin doing so”.

“CTF believes that measures to restrict access to ticketing will create a black market with more transactions driven underground”

“We have not engaged professional support in the manner described and we have no agreement to do so,” it continued. “Like any industry preparing for a potential change in a regulatory environment, we are taking preparatory action which includes bringing the industry together to share insights.

“CTF believes that measures to restrict access to ticketing will create a black market with more transactions driven underground, removing customer security; reduce the availability of tickets to fans; and create further monopolies for vested interests which will see prices driven up for fans.”

A Viagogo spokesperson told the Guardian that two of its executives attended the event for “networking reasons” and said the Swiss-headquartered firm was not funding the CTF. StubHub International and Vivid Seats did not comment, but the latter company is expected to launch in the UK shortly, having incorporated back in March.

A 2022 investigation by ITV News, based on research carried out by campaign group FanFair Alliance (FFA), found that three people were responsible for over two-thirds of UK festival and outdoor event tickets listed by resale platform Viagogo.

Rules to outlaw ticket touting have been adopted in a number of other countries. However, the Conservative government recently rejected fresh legislation that would impact the UK secondary ticketing market. The amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill called for requirements to be imposed on resale platforms regarding “proof of purchase, ticket number limits and the provision of information, with the aim of reducing fraud”.

“I have quite happily used Viagogo on many occasions, as other people have when reselling tickets”

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “We believe those provisions are already there,” and admitted to using Viagogo himself in the past.

“I have quite happily used Viagogo on many occasions, as other people have when reselling tickets,” said the Conservative MP. “Of course we will keep looking at the primary and secondary markets, and at the interaction between the two, so that we can develop the right way to regulate the market, in a future parliament.”

The suggested requirements for resale sites were in line with the recommendations made in a 2021 report by the CMA to tighten laws around online ticket touting, which were rejected by the UK government in May last year, with then business secretary Hollinrake saying he was “not convinced” by the need for additional legislative changes.

Earlier this month meanwhile, four people were jailed for using fraudulent tactics to purchase and resell hundreds of tickets at hugely inflated prices for events and concerts such as Ed Sheeran and Lady Gaga. The defendants ran multi-million-pound limited company TQ Tickets, which they used to purchase hundreds of tickets for events and concerts by the likes of Gary Barlow, Liam Gallagher, Paul Weller and Little Mix.

The trial heard the firm sold tickets worth more than £6.5 million (€7.6m) over the course of two-and-a-half years.

 


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