Tuesday 10th December 2019

Addressing the ticket touting epidemic at Arsenal

The problem of tickets for Arsenal games being touted is growing worse and needs addressing for many important reasons including:

  • Fans getting “ripped off” and paying prices well above face value
  • The hoarding of memberships/seats by touts adds to the empty seat problem
  • It can create a breakdown in segregation amongst fans
  • Touting undermines existing membership schemes where ticketing access is rewarded based on loyalty such as in the Arsenal away scheme

Ticket Touting at Arsenal games has sadly now even reached tickets for away matches.

We know touting greatly concerns our members and all Arsenal fans. In our survey this summer 91% of respondents said it was important to for there to be more enforcement action taken against ticket touting both at home games and in the away scheme.

The AST therefore decided to take more action in this area. This included:

  1. Attending a meeting with Arsenal.
  2. Undertaking our own mystery shopping exercise for two away games where we purchased tickets from secondary sites and then reported the details to the Club.
  3. Raising the issue at the Fan’s Forum and in discussions with Arsenal Managing Director Vinai Venkatesham.

We give a more detailed update below:

1. Attending meetings with Arsenal's Safety and Security team and addressing Touting at the Emirates

The AST has attended Safety Meetings arranged by the Club and would like to record our thanks to John Beattie, Sharon Cicco and Mark Brindle. All have all been helpful and informative and recognise this is a big problem where collectively much more needs to be done. Already Arsenal undertake a range of measures to tackle touting and we are aware they must do this on their own as the pressure on police resources means they will not support any action despite the reselling of a football ticket being a criminal offence.

The AST has subsequently written to Arsenal asking that greater effort is put into the following actions:

  • More street enforcement against the touting – perhaps by investing in policing and local trading standards officers to investigate and enforce
  • “Mystery shopping” exercises by Arsenal to both root out and act as a deterrent
  • Blocking multiple memberships being held at one address and taking more concerted action against duplicate memberships
  • A one-page info sheet sent out with all paper ticket mailings warning of the consequences of “on selling”
  • Stricter action against people who sell to touts – Arsenal should move to a straight ban of any membership that is used in a secondary sale however that occurs
  • More warnings and education to fans (many clubs carry adverts in their matchday programmes) about not buying and selling including the sanction of losing your membership if an unofficial sale occurs. This would include warning fans that when they sell a ticket on to a third party at face value in good faith there is a strong chance that the person they sell it to is a tout who then sells it again at a profit.

Most importantly we need to see improvements in Arsenal’s Ticket Exchange. An effective secondary resale mechanism run by the club will dampen the scale of the secondary market by giving people both selling and looking for tickets an official and safe service to use.

The introduction of a ‘Home Ticket Credit Scheme (HTCS)’, regularly proposed and encouraged by the AST, would provide a deterrent against touts stockpiling memberships because these memberships would not accrue the home credits if not in use on a matchday. It would also help by getting more tickets into circulation on the Exchange which would dampen the secondary touting market.

2. Away Touting – significant abuse of ticketing arrangements is now clear

Touting is now spreading into the Away membership with scores of tickets being listed on secondary ticket websites for most games. This is really disappointing given the closed nature of the scheme and that away allocations are based on loyalty points.

Last season the AST undertook two “mystery shopping” exercises for the away games at Bournemouth (November) and Watford (April).

On both occasions we paid almost £300 on StubHub for a ticket with a face value of £30 – a mark-up off over 10 times. We subsequently ensured that the tickets we bought were “cancelled” which enabled us to secure refunds from StubHub for the Bournemouth game and in the Watford case the merchant card provider on the basis the ticket was not valid as it had been sold against its terms and conditions.

The ticket for the Bournemouth game was offered in a block of four tickets. On match day we went to the seat location of the other three tickets and found overseas supporters who had bought tickets through the same secondary site.

Unless there are Away Scheme members acting in collusion, we can only conclude that away tickets are also made available to Box and Platinum members. Specific action needs to be taken by Arsenal in this regard.

Considering what we learnt from these exercises we have set out some questions and proposals to the Club:

  • Will Arsenal commit resources to mystery shopping to help catch and deter more online sales?
  • Will Arsenal commit to ban all members (including removal of current ticket arrangements) caught touting – including those who have platinum memberships?
  • Will Arsenal publish a breakdown of how away scheme tickets are allocated including how many of the allocation go to (i) away scheme (ii) away loyalty points (iii) Platinum (iv) partners and sponsors. Other clubs now do this, and the transparency is seen as a good thing in promoting fairness and accountability
  • Can Arsenal introduce some form of ID check for away games to deter touting? Perhaps have a % of tickets for every game where they must be collected on the day with ID or similar? This has been applied at other clubs and is seen as having had a dampening effect on touting - and the misuse of loyalty points

3. Arsenal’s response

  • We have been encouraged that Arsenal have engaged fully on this subject and appear to recognise the scale of the problem. We received the following response from Arsenal's Managing Director on this issue: Letter on touting from Arsenal.pdf. We are encouraged they have taken up some of our requests such as committing to introduce their own mystery shopping.
  • There is however still a lot more that can be done. We welcome their commitment to action and will make sure the issue is raised in greater detail at the next Fan’s Forum and in other meetings with the Club. We will keep members informed of developments.

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