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Ticket touts: are they heroes or villains?

Folded twenty pound notesWe take a look at the pros and cons of buying and selling tickets on the black market and ask: should touting be banned?

If you haven’t yet managed to get a ticket for the Champions League final between Manchester United and Barcelona at Wembley on 28 May, your chances of going to the match are slim: the game has long been sold out.

Unfortunately, the same is true of many of the UK’s big events this summer: every ticket for the Glastonbury Festival, which takes place at the end of June, was snapped up within hours of them going on sale last autumn.

You are likely also to be disappointed if you want to watch either of the Wimbledon singles finals in July, or even if you want to see the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and Rhianna at August’s V Festival in Essex and Staffordshire.

Touts to the rescue?

This is where ticket touts come in – provided you have the cash.

Touting is illegal at football matches – a throwback to old anti-hooligan legislation – as it will be at next year’s London Olympic Games.

For other events, however, touts are generally not breaking the law, even if organisers frown on their behaviour and often take steps to stop tickets being resold.

But for every rich tennis fan happy to pay £6,000 for a pair of black market Wimbledon Men’s Final tickets, there are countless other sports lovers or concert-goers who blame touts for driving prices out of the average person’s reach.

In support of black-market tickets

If you spend money on tickets for a popular event but one of your group is unable to attend, say, it seems reasonable that you can sell your spare seat to someone else.

Most venues won’t give you a refund under such circumstances, but if you turn up beforehand, chances are a tout will pay you for your ticket and sell it on.

Obviously there will be a gap between the price you get and the price it’s sold on for, but if there was no mark-up there would be no tout.

Or imagine your favourite band announces a tour, but you miss the tickets when they go on sale (or you can’t get through to make a purchase) and they quickly sell out.

The tout – or secondary-sale websites such as Viagogo and eBay – means you still get a chance to see the gig.

Buying through this route is inevitably more expensive, but that’s capitalism for you. Like other commodities, tickets are only worth what people are willing to pay for them – and if that means double the face value, say, then so be it.

Why touting should be banned

One of the strongest arguments against black-market ticket sales is that it is the touts themselves who create demand for their services.

For example, as soon as tickets for a popular event go on sale – online or by phone – touts will make huge efforts to buy up as many tickets as possible in the knowledge they will be able to make a profit by selling them on at a greatly inflated price.

This means that ordinary consumers are less likely to be able to buy tickets directly in the first place.

The pop group LCD Soundsystem was shocked when this happened to tickets for what was supposed to be its final concert in New York. But the band did come up with a plan to thwart the touts (or scalpers as they are known in the US) by adding extra shows, thus devaluing the black-market tickets.

Some people argue that it is the fault of promoters for setting ticket prices too low.

But this ignores the fact that these more reasonable prices do at least give those on lower incomes the opportunity to attend events – even if their chances of buying tickets are reduced by the touts’ activities.

So what do you think: are touts performing a necessary service, or should they be banned? Let us know by adding a comment below.

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