The draft evidence from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's investigation into ticket resales has been published online, and Phil Davies MP has come out of it looking pretty deft. First up were Paul Vaughan of the Rugby Football Union; Alex Horne from Wembley and the FA, and Nicholas Bitel, representing Wimbledon. Davies heard their desire to ensure that 'genuine' fans could get to their events, and then sucked a thoughtful tooth:
Mr Bitel: In tickets, yes.
Q7 Philip Davies: Can you give me one industry where the Government regulates the price or the secondary market of anything? No. I cannot either.
Mr Vaughan: There are probably a number of markets where the primary market is actually regulated rather than the secondary, because there is no secondary market for it.
Q8 Philip Davies: The Government does not regulate the secondary market, so when people sell art and think, "I can get �90 for this art", and somebody thinks, "Great I'll pay �95 for that and I can sell that on for �200", the Government does not regulate that because that is the way the world goes round.
Mr Bitel: The Government does regulate it.
Q9 Philip Davies: The whole world goes round on people buying things and selling them on.
Mr Bitel: It is a criminal offence to sell on your ticket for London Underground, for instance.
Q10 Philip Davies: Why are tickets any different from anything else that people buy and think, "Actually I could sell this at a profit"? Why should tickets be different from anything else?
Mr Bitel: Tickets are not a commodity. I think that is the basic flaw in that particular analysis. Just in the same way as the Government regulates the laws into who comes into private land, we are private land and we regulate who comes into our grounds or stadia; and in the same way we are issuing a licence in the same way as a landlord issues a lease. If you are a landlord you can refuse to sell the lease onto whoever you wish to. We are issuing a licence to enter into our land to particular people, named individuals; and very often they are named individuals for a particular reason. For instance, we have issued tickets to wheelchair users because we want to have a certain number of tickets available to wheelchair users, and we are seeing those tickets being touted to the general market, to non-wheelchair users. We think that is an inappropriate use of the free market.
Hold on a moment - did the solictor representing the All England Club just suggest that they're using disability as a way of determining who can and can't buy certain tickets for their event? Is that even legal?
Mr Vaughan: If I could just answer that. It is the opportunity cost to the sport potentially. We are trying to reward players, volunteers and schoolchildren, people we want to encourage to stay within the game. At the end of the day the sport loses because if we do not enable them to keep on getting their tickets they will not belong to clubs and the sport will shrink. I believe if you spoke to your own club within this august body here, they do not sell the tickets on because they genuinely want to use them. If you looked at the differential it is an opportunity cost to the sport. The secondary market exists because we price them lower. If we priced our tickets at an economic price - there are some prices going on at the moment from viagogo for the England v Wales game February 2008. Firstly, we have not even printed the tickets; we have not even designed the tickets; and they are going at a rate currently of somewhere in the region of �592 each. We are pricing them, they say within here, of between �20 and �65: that is wrong.
So, Vaughan is suggesting that the people who buy tickets at a mark-up don't want to use them? Is there a hitherto undiscovered group of people snapping up cup final tickets at a mark-up and then burning them? Is this something to do with the KLF?
Of course, Davies was having none of this, and tried his "who is hurt here" question again:
Mr Vaughan: Are you suggesting that the sport should actually charge �500 to start with?
We imagine he was doing some sums on the back on the envelope here; it's interesting he couldn't, apparently, understand a simple "if you price a tickets at one level, and someone pays that level, even if it is sold on for more, how can you lose when you have achieved the price you wanted" question.
Mr Horne: The example that Paul is highlighting here, it could be the end user who may be happy to pay �500 for a ticket, but that ticket does not exist yet; it is not in the hands of viagogo and they have no right to enter into that transaction.
But selling stuff you don't have in your hands isn't a crime - that's exactly what the futures market and hedge funds are based on. If you then fail to keep up your side of the bargain, the law already will be able to intervene. So there's not any clear reason for new legislation there, is there?
No direct control of - but isn't the case with tickets sold through official agents, too?
Frustrating, perhaps, but if Wimbledon really wanted that to not happen, they could arrange their ticket sales in a way that would prevent that happening. Why go running to the government demanding laws simply because you're too lazy or mean to invest in your own ticketing system?
Q14 Philip Davies: With a limited number of tickets only so many people can go, so the person who won out was the person who paid the tout for the ticket. If they had not had them they would have lost out. A punter somewhere would have lost out one way or another, whether you had ticket touting or not, would they not? One of them would not have been able to go.
Mr Horne: To use the children analogy, it is unreasonable to allow an open market to have adult access into an area that has been specifically designed to be sold for children. A similar analogy you could use for football.
Adrian Sanders saw an obvious flaw in this chimera of adults pretending to be children to take advantage of under 16 sales: they don't look like children:
Apparently, the (now defunct, but not at the time) Department of Trade and Industry won't let them, says Wimbledon:
Oh, really? Didn't the DTI suggest rather than instruct, and weren't they talking about tickets being sold like-for-like - not that it was unreasonable to refuse to allow an adult to use a child's ticket; that's just a ridiculous claim.
Bitel pulled on another of his hats:
So, we're now asking the UK Government to start legislating in order to bend to the whims of private, self-appointed bodies like UEFA?
Later, Harvey Goldsmith appeared, making his pledge that he's interested in the 'real fans':
We're always fascinated by the concept of "real fans" - the people who throw the term around usually are very distant indeed from any concept of actually supporting anything. For example, there was that patronising "You're the real fans" campaign from Coke last year, when executives representing a Georgia based soft drink company signed off on telling people who go to lower-league matches how "real" they are - as if two decades of trudging to a ground with no roof to watch a stream of nil-nil draws counted for nothing until Coke validated it.
And I'm a little lost by this train of thought anyway - did I somehow count as an unreal Fall fan the time I bought my ticket in the street outside the Lomax for a fifty per-cent mark-up? Was my fandom intact when I then bought a ticket for a later gig at the box office? Or is real fandom like virginity, and once it's gone, it's gone?
Leaving aside that Goldsmith has run through the irrelevant explanation of how events set their prices - presumably nobody thought that these events were "plucking prices from the air"; if events sold tickets at prices which didn't provide them with a return that situation wouldn't change if the tickets were used by initial purchasers, or sold on fourteen times - what does he mean when he claims that fans "do not want to pay inflated prices for" tickets? Clearly they do, or there wouldn't be a secondary market and hence no need for anyone to worry.
The sports guys suggested that people were paying over the odds for tickets they didn't want to use; now Goldsmith is suggesting that people are bidding on eBay for events featuring bands they're not arsed about. What strange people are out there. Apparently.
But don't the touts pay a price for the event which - as Harvey had just laboriously explained - has been set to give everyone a fair return? It's not like they're stealing tickets, is it?
Philip Davies wondered if this would all be a good use of police time:
Mr Goldsmith: The police are there anyway. I went to Wembley Stadium two Saturdays ago and from coming out of the station - because it was the first time I had been there and wanted to experience it as if I were regular customer - I counted 23 policemen with their flak jackets ready for World War Three, machine guns and God knows what else - Wembley Station. Walking down the steps, more policemen. I counted about 12 or 14 Wembley stewards also patrolling up and down. Then I was confronted, at my count, with 43 ticket touts who were harassing people coming through trying buy, trying to sell; trying to do some deal; pushing people, "Can you buy this one". The 23 policemen were there whether the touts were there or not. All they had to do was look one stage further and protect the public who genuinely wanted to go to Wembley Stadium to see a show, who were not there for a riot and do not want to be harassed by these people.
So Goldsmith is saying that the police out there - supposedly for public order - have got so little to do with their time they could be acting as ticket stewards too? "Hold me gun for me, Max, I'm just going to check this guy's name against a list of people who bought tickets at the box office..."
Rob Ballantine was asked by Helen Southwell what would happen if people could no longer sell on tickets they simply couldn't use. Rob Ballantine made it clear they weren't going to offer refunds:
So, in other words: at the moment, the reselling of tickets stops promoters going bust and stops people who aren't able to use their tickets losing out. So, erm, we should change that, then.
Ballantine projected a fearful world of the future without new laws:
Oddly, though, there's not been any suggestion I've seen yet that the legislation should prevent events promoters from auctioning tickets. Perhaps that should be built in, then - otherwise we might get the impression that all the music and sports industries are interested in is clearing out the competition so they can have the auction action to themselves.
[Thanks to Ian; it should be noted the above segments have been prepublished neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.]