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football fans and the law   Ticket to Hide
  Ticket tout laws are hitting the people they are meant to protect

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Article by Mike Slocombe ('When Saturday Comes', 1995)

THE POLICE CLEARLY BELIEVE THAT ticket touts are getting younger all the time.

That's the obvious conclusion to be drawn from a recent incident in which a ten-year-old Stoke City fan was reported to the police by the club secretary for trying to sell a ticket for a match he couldn't attend via an advert in the local paper. The ticket was worth 11, he was asking 7.

It seems that a lot of fans still don't know about the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act that can be applied to football spectators, and are suffering as a result.

The new laws have been used to justify the arrest and conviction of fans who are clearly not touts, caught trying to sell on their own tickets at cost price. Two recent incidents exemplify the problem.

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Firstly, there are the three Birmingham City fans arrested at Wycombe on 17th March,1995. One held a spare ticket bought by a friend who couldn't make it to the match.

Standing outside the away end, he tried to sell it at the cost price of 6.50. Despite producing his St. Andrews season ticket in an effort to prove that he was not a tout, he was arrested at 2.30 and held for eight hours, missing his last train home.

The two other fans also held one ticket belonging to someone who couldn't go to the game, and stood by the away entrance offering it for 6.50. They were picked up after being approached by a plain clothes officer. Again they produced their season tickets to no avail.

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Then there is the case of the coach driver from a travel firm, which regularly arranges match trips for Swedish supporters of English clubs. The company were left with spare tickets after seven fans were unable to come on the latest trip.

They hoped to recoup the money through their driver selling the spares outside the ground being visited by the group.

He was arrested, but when he came to court, even the presiding judge was at a loss to understand why the case had been brought, and asked the prosecuting counsel whether the tickets had been stolen or were forgeries.

If law officials are still in the dark about the Criminal justice ct, what hope is there for the ordinary citizen?

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Referring to the unauthorized sale of tickets in a public place, the November 1994 edition of the Westminster Strategy Report, produced by the government's media relations department, states, "...The aim is to prevent the professional ticket tout but not, for instance, to make it illegal for someone to sell on a ticket to a friend or relation."

This directive is being ignored by some police forces keen to bump up their arrest figures. How could the Birmingham fans seeking to make 6.50 for the sale of one ticket possibly be confused with the professionals we've all seen in the vicinity of football stadiums clutching wads of spares and offering to buy?

If there is a crime here, who is the victim?

The police always say that ticket less fans shouldn't travel, but there are umpteen cases of tickets for supposedly all-ticket matches being made available by the home club on the day.

Supporters will always make the journey while clubs are prepared to contradict the information they themselves have put out.


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