Reflections on ticket touts and the Olympics

Dave Woodhall casts a jaundiced eye over police plans to crackdown on Olympic ticket touting.

It was interesting that yesterday’s Press ran a story about West Midlands Police clamping down on ticket touting at the recent Wolves v Manchester United game, as a warm-up for their operations during the forthcoming Olympics football matches taking place in Coventry.

I would imagine touting takes place every time Manchester United play in the area; certainly every time they’re at Villa Park you can hear the mating call of the lesser-spotted tout “Buy and sell, any spares” up and down Witton Lane. They’re also there when Arsenal, Liverpool, all the other glamour cubs are visiting. And guess what? I’ve never seen a single one of them ever apprehended by the West Midlands’ finest.

Yet now, with the Olympics approaching, we have to make sure there’s a well-drilled plan to prevent touting outside the temporarily-named City of Coventry Stadium – it has to have a name change for the games because Ricoh aren’t Olympic partners, or associates, or whatever the new buzz word is for sponsors.  As a police spokesman said, touting means spectators can get into areas they shouldn’t, and can lead to segregation problems. Fair enough, that’s common sense although there were no such problems at Euro 96, nor at any other internationals where grounds in Britain have been used as neutral venues.

Let’s be honest. The main reasons why police will be clamping down on touts at the Olympics isn’t because of the fear of disorder or in case their profits are syphoned off towards international crime syndicates. They’ll be doing it because the International Olympic Committee will be telling them to. The Olympics has to be seen to be good, clean, wholesome family entertainment, neatly packaged and sold to the highest bidder, who can then re-sell it for as much as they like – provide they’ve paid the IOC for the privilege.  It’ll be the same with guerrilla marketing and unofficial merchandise; the IOC will use the full force of the law and its agents to ensure that nobody makes an unauthorised  penny out of the Olympics if it can be helped. I’m reminded of an East End protection racket here; I’ve got visions of IOC members visiting the Asda at the Ricoh, sorry, City of Coventry Stadium to collect their ‘donations’ on matchday.

But if I’m wrong and there are genuine fears of crowd disturbances at football and other sports during the Olympics, I hope the police will be working to track down those who will be selling tickets at inflated prices to fans irrespective of allegiance. To help them, here’s a few websites where such transactions are advertised:

and of course