Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Scottish government responds to petition

The Scottish government has responded to my petition, which called for appropriate legislation to tackle the problem of ticket-touting in Scotland.

I have previously discussed the problem on here: Help make ticket-touting history
The government's reply is this:

What are your views on the issue raised in the petition?

The Scottish Government firmly opposes ticket touting as it exposes consumers to unscrupulous practices which can involve a heavy financial cost with little guarantee. We encourage all consumers to ensure that, when they are buying tickets, be that for football matches or any other event, that they do so from officially recognised sources and current schemes such as consumer direct offer invaluable advice on this.

On the re-sale of football tickets for Scottish domestic and international fixtures, we would expect football clubs and organisations such as the recognised governing body for football, the Scottish Football Association (SFA), to have robust procedures and mechanisms in place to ensure that tickets for football matches under their jurisdiction are being distributed appropriately. The Scottish Government notes that further questions are directed towards the SFA and the Scottish Premier League and they should be able to outline the procedures they have in place.

Is there any reason why you have not taken these steps previously?

The Scottish Government do not believe that legislation is necessary in Scotland to prohibit the resale of football tickets as we are not aware of this being a significant issue at this time. We recognise that there are a small number of matches where demand may exceed supply but we do not believe at this stage that legislation is required as the majority of international and domestic matches take place without all the tickets being sold.

Would you be willing to take the action requested by the petitioner?

In considering introducing any legislation, the Scottish Government would have to be satisfied that legislation was necessary and that there was no satisfactory alternative. At this moment in time we do not believe that legislation is a proportionate response given only a small number of football matches in Scotland are sold out.

Where do you start with this? While accepting the premise that legislation is only necessary when there is no satisfactory alternative, I simply can not accept that this is "not a significant issue at this time". The "evidence" that "only a small number of football matches in Scotland are sold out" is irrelevant, and proves nothing. That is also true in England and Wales (in fact, in the case of Wales I can't imagine there ever being a sold-out league game!) - and also in Holland - where legislation has already been implemented.

So, Albion Rovers and Morton and their fellow lower-division teams don't suffer from the problem of touting. True, I've never seen a tout outside either Cliftonhill or Cappielow. But the fact is that, in Scotland, the majority of games do not attract the majority of fans and the truth is that there is a problem in relation to fixtures involving the Old Firm, the Scottish national team (at least when they're playing decent opposition) and some games in the Scottish Cup. And as even the Daily Record appreciates, the Scotland v Spain fixture was an extreme example of the damage ticket touting can do to the game when unchecked.

As for the patronising "people should only buy their tickets from properly recognised sources" - how realistic is that? There are many reasons why for certain games, especially where demand is particularly high, that individuals will go through whatever channels they can to obtain a ticket. The fact that demand isn't so high for most games in Scotland is hardly justification to allow unsafe and unethical practices to continue. People are buying tickets at vastly inflated prices (last week on eBay there were several tickets for the Old firm game selling at well over £100 each) and will continue to do so. Clearly, the SFA's "robust procedures and mechanisms" are not working and should at the very least be re-examined.

I will be making these points in a response for consideration by the Public Petitions Committee. I will, of course, post news of any further developments.

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