The first weekend in July is a date firmly marked in many sporting calendars in England. Wimbledon has been going for a week and the chances are that we've only got Andy Murray left flying the British flag; Henley Regatta is in full flow whilst further up the M1 the British Grand Prix is welcoming crowds of up to 140,000, hoping to see Lewis Hamilton drive his way to glory at Silverstone. Tickets for all three events are always in huge demand. Hundreds queue overnight outside the All-England Club in Wimbledon for a slim chance of a ticket to one of the show courts, whilst the ticket touts make a fortune selling their wares outside the train station. Whilst the act of reselling tickets for sporting events is shrouded in complex legislation, invariably the tickets these chaps have are genuine, which is more than can be said for dozens of websites that pop up every year, reputing to be selling the genuine articles but ultimately delivering forged tickets, if anything at all.
Annual events such as the British Grand Prix or Henley are incredibly difficult to police in terms of identifying and removing websites and individual sellers of counterfeits or non-existent tickets from marketplace sites. The Consumer Rights Act that came into force in May requires ticket resellers to provide information about the original source and details of the tickets being sold. Unfortunately, websites that sit outside of the UK (based on the physical web servers not the registrant of the domain name) do not have to reveal the original sale price or even the exact ticket location, making the legislation ineffective.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, where a ticket is offered for resale on the internet through a secondary ticketing facility, this information has to be disclosed publically. This information must be clear for the average consumer to understand. The two important facts that need to be disclosed are the original face value of a ticket and if the seller is, or is acting on behalf of, the operator of the secondary ticketing facility, a connected business or person to the original ticket agent, this has to be declared. Alas, it seems that few of the secondary market sites are yet to adopt the new rules meaning that hugely inflated tickets for Wimbledon, Henley and Silverstone were still on sale hours before the events this weekend.
Counterfeit merchandise is also an issue for the organisers of these prestige events. Wimbledon can boast such high profile commercial partners as Rolex, Ralph Lauren and Lanson Champagne, whilst the racing teams who will be competing at Silverstone are sponsored by a veritable list of luxury brands including Hugo Boss, Bose, Mercedes and Hackett. They do not want to see their branding on cheap, poor quality merchandise that could be found online and being sold around the outside of the venues, although thanks to the vigilance of the organisers and Trading Standards that issue is becoming less of a problem.
Sports fans will often go to extraordinary lengths to get their hands on tickets for sold-out events like these. Whilst the organisers of events like the British Grand Prix and Wimbledon may have strategies in place to monitor the Internet for websites selling counterfeit tickets, it's actually basic education that they could well be best investing in. Providing information on how to buy from official sources, whether a website offering tickets is genuine (something the Rugby World Cup team does very well) and how to report a suspect website is a sensible first step in ensuring that fans know how to stay one step ahead of the dangers that buying on the secondary ticket markets can bring.