Just three days ahead of the second batch of sales of tickets for the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany, the Cup organizing committee is already in damage control mode.
Horst R Schmidt, senior vice president of the organizing committee, was forced to issue a media statement, warning fans of the danger of obtaining tickets through any other than official channels.
'All we can do is warn people to steer well clear of such offers,' Schmidt said on the official World Cup site fifaworldcup.yahoo.com, responding to the fact that within hours of the sale of the first batch of tickets, scalpers were offering them for sale on eBay at huge margins.
'Fans obtaining tickets in this way may find themselves denied admission at the turnstiles. Everyone knows that tickets are personalized and cannot be transferred without a genuinely pressing reason, and then only with the Organizing Committee's approval. There could be problems if the ticket and personal ID fail to match, exactly as there would be with an airline ticket. We've said it often enough before, and we're saying it again: tickets are only transferable for good reasons - and profiteering isn't a good reason.'
Speaking to the Christian Science Monitor, Philipp Köster, a veteran of European soccer tournaments and founder of the respected fan publication 11 Freunde said the suggestion that ID checks could stop the black market was naïve.
Schmidt himself believes it is impossible to stop the black market entirely. 'We know you can't totally eliminate the black market,' he said on the official site. 'They've been trying for more than a century at Wimbledon. Nonetheless, our aim is to prevent it as far as possible. We don't want fans suffering a rude awakening at the stadium entrance, because they've fallen victim to random identity checks.
'The black market is and always will be associated with enormous risk, and the effect will be magnified this time round. We believe it is our duty to keep up our warnings on the subject. We even saw World Cup tickets offered for sale on the Internet in 2004, which was genuinely absurd, and has to be pointed out as such.'
Cup organizers had on April 22 released the first lot of the estimated 1 million publicly available tickets, through lottery in which 900,000 people participated. 208,455 tickets, priced between 35 euros ($45) to 600 euros ($774), were released in the first batch. Applications for the next batch of tickets, on first come first served basis, begin May 2. (More information on the various sales periods).
Media reports indicate that interest in the event, which kicks off June 9, 2006, is already at fever pitch especially in the host country. Thus, 80 per cent of applicants for tickets in the first round, the Monitor reports, were Germans. Interestingly, increased interest in the game in the US is reflected in the fact that the third highest number of applicants are from that country, behind Germany and Great Britain.
The Monitor quotes Koster, and others, as pointing out that the bureaucracy involved in applying has angered and turned off many fans, he argues. The complicated ordering site has reportedly caused much frustration, as also rules that voided applications for more than one game on the same day.
Schmidt, meanwhile, says the organizing committee is looking into ways of stamping out the black market, including legal action. 'We're considering legal action to halt this situation,' he said on the site. 'The terms and conditions of sale have unquestionably been breached, and copyrights infringed. The people making these offers do not have the right to transfer tickets allocated to them to third parties.'