Blog Sports Law 25th Jun 2024


Views vary widely on the practice of ticket touting.  To some, touts are the epitome of free marketeers; to others they are exploiters who take advantage of those who are unable to buy tickets at face value.

The rules regarding the resale of tickets for sports fixtures vary from event to event, sport to sport and even vary depending upon the type of ticket or ticketholder.  But the unauthorised sale of tickets for any other sporting or non-sporting events other than football is not regulated by the criminal law; football stands alone in this regard[1].

Take Wimbledon for example.  Although it is not illegal to sell one’s non-transferable Wimbledon ticket, [NTWT] the sale thereof does contravene the terms and conditions of sale and therefore the person who buys the ticket runs the risk of being denied entry or being ejected from the tournament.  Debenture holders however have the right to resell their tickets and make a handsome return on their investment without any such risk to the new purchaser.

In recent years, The All England Lawn Tennis Club has attempted to clamp down on the resale market by targeting individual touts.  Oliver Hardiman was jailed for four months for contempt of court earlier this year following his refusal to comply with an interim injunction requiring him to cease trading unlawfully in NTWTs and provide detailed information about his transactions: The All England Lawn Tennis Club vs Oliver Hardiman – High Court – [2024] EWHC 787 (KB).

But is the old fashioned tout that one sees outside so many sporting venues the real problem which clubs and organisations need to address if they wish to stamp out touting?

For example, a single ticket for the European Championship clash between Spain and Italy last week was selling for up to £938 on Viagogo, the secondary ticketing website, even though UEFA’s terms and conditions ban the resale of Euro 2024 tickets except on its own exchange where they must be sold at face value.  However, as any fan who has tried to use this exchange or their own club’s official exchange to purchase an unwanted ticket well knows, there are rarely any such tickets available.

And so the fans, whether diehards or tourists are driven into the arms of the touts, electronic or flesh and blood.  And if clubs and associations want to use the law to prevent the touts from getting hold of tickets and selling them at inflated prices, they are going to have to try harder and to take on the big boys.


Brian O’Neill KC

[1] Under s.166 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 it is a criminal offence for an unauthorised person to sell or otherwise dispose of a ticket for a designated football match to another person.  The maximum sentence is a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, currently £1000.


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