Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Japanese rush 'black market' for World Cup tickets

Reselling of tickets for Japan matches at the upcoming FIFA World Cup finals in Germany is "running rampant" as the event's 9 June kickoff approaches. According to The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japanese travel agents are openly selling tickets despite technical innovations to discourage the unofficial re-sale market. One Tokyo-based travel agency, whose website reads "Just in time! World Cup Germany tickets", said it purchased its tickets from a European firm.

Tickets for the coming matches are officially sold through the organizing committee's website, the official sponsors and the football associations of the participating countries. The tickets bear the buyer's names on them and FIFA says it will not admit ticketholders who do not have the right tickets. If the buyer wishes to change the name on the tickets, he or she must submit a letter citing the reason to the organization from which the purchase was made. Match tickets also include IC chips containing the purchaser's personal information, making it easy for stadium staff to check the buyer's name, gender and age.

When it first released tickets for the Germany events, the Japan Football Association received 87 times more applications than their allotment of 6,400 tickets. The price of the ticket offered by the travel agency starts at 235,000 yen per seat for Japan's match against Brazil in the group round - nearly 36 times the official price.

The JFA is warning people against considering black market tickets: "One should remember that entering with a resold ticket bears risks, such as being required to produce identification." However the travel agency disagrees. "They introduced tickets last time that had the buyer's name on them, but they were never checked at the gate," staff at the travel agency told The Yomiuri Shimbun. "There shouldn't be a problem getting in this time, either."

UPDATE

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has admitted looming problems over World Cup tickets at next month's tournament are still unresolved. German organisers and government officials are insisting every single ticket must be checked against passports or ID cards before fans are allowed into the stadia. FIFA fear such a rigid stance will lead to huge queues, delays, half-empty stadia and possibly crowd trouble - but insist they are powerless to force any changes.

"The German organisers are in a very uncomfortable situation. On one side you have the governmental authorities in charge of security who say in such a perturbed world it's not enough to protect the borders of Germany, but they have to look at everyone going to the stadium. That's why they have issued these regulations all tickets must be identified at the barrier. Then you have human rights organisations saying this is personal data that must be protected," he told a London press conference.

He added: "It's obvious if you do this control it will cause delays. How long will it take to let people into the stadium, and what happens if a father has given his ticket to his son?

See also: Sponsors tickets may go to fans at next World Cup (30 Apr)

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