Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 touts sell Northern Ireland match tickets for £2,500

By Adrian Rutherford

Greedy touts are cashing in on Northern Ireland fans' Euro 2016 misery by selling tickets at up to £2,500 a time.

A shortage of seats means hundreds of loyal supporters are set to miss our first major tournament in 30 years. Yet tickets for Northern Ireland's three group fixtures are widely available online - at vastly inflated prices.

The controversy over the tickets debacle showed no signs of abating yesterday as more angry fans came forward to vent their frustration at the IFA and Uefa.

Concerns have also been raised that supporters who attempted to buy cheaper tickets for France have missed out, while those who can afford more expensive seats have been successful.

DUP MLA William Humphrey said: "A lot of working-class people across the country, people with family commitments and in employment, are the ones who have been hit the worst. It is a shame that the people who can't afford the more expensive tickets have been penalised."

The Belfast Telegraph has discovered that tickets for Northern Ireland games are being offered online at more than 20 times their face value, while grassroots fans are left in limbo. One ticket for Northern Ireland's game with Ukraine in Lyon, worth €145 (£112), is being offered for £2,480.

Dozens more tickets are available at four-figure prices.

It has infuriated loyal members of the Green and White Army who have missed out on tickets.

Supporters' spokesman Gary McAllister said: "Uefa needs to look at this and see what can be done to prevent it.

"This is a wider issue within football where tickets are sold in good faith, then appear on numerous sites at highly inflated prices.

"Obviously, we would advise fans not to buy tickets from those sources because it simply encourages this sort of activity. It raises serious questions as to how tickets have fallen into these hands."

One site has several hundred tickets to Northern Ireland's three group games.

The cheapest ticket for the opening fixture against Poland is £197 - 10 times its official €25 (£19) price - with the dearest costing £1,425. And tickets for the Germany clash are up to £1,653 each.

Mr Humphrey, who was among those to miss out, said: "It is very simple - tickets should be going to genuine fans wanting to watch a match. They should not be used for those looking for profit."

One Northern Ireland fan said he had little option but to buy a ticket, despite the huge cost.

"The prices are scandalous, but it has to be done," he added.

Uefa, European football's governing body, warned fans not to buy tickets from unofficial sources.

It said: "Uefa stresses that no tickets are being distributed via agencies or brokers, and encourages fans not to be lured into deals with touts who not only demand exorbitant prices but are often not even in possession of the tickets they purport to have for sale."

Rule 8.1 of Uefa's ticketing regulations states that the advertising for, or actual resale of, tickets is "strictly prohibited".

Uefa also says tickets that are resold can be cancelled, that those used in attempting to gain access to games can be refused and that police may be called.

Around 30,000 tickets were released for Northern Ireland's three group games.

Four categories were available, priced at €25 (£19), €55 (£42), €105 (£81) and €145 (£112).

But anger erupted on Tuesday after it emerged hundreds of fans, some of whom have followed the team for 20 years, had missed out.

Some people who had never before bought a Northern Ireland ticket said they had been allocated tickets to all three group games.

Often, this was because they applied for more expensive tickets. Far fewer applications were made for pricier tickets, meaning those who applied had greater success.

Grassroots supporters - who opted for cheaper category three and four tickets - lost out.

Uefa bowed to pressure on Tuesday evening and released an extra 930 seats for the June 12 opener against Poland in Nice.

Priority will be given to fans who have attended most of the qualifying matches.

Supporters with 18 loyalty points or more should receive a ticket, said Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson.

However, there is no increase in tickets for the games against Ukraine in Lyon on June 16 and Germany in Paris on June 21.

The fiasco is expected to be raised at a meeting of Stormont's Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee this morning.

Mr Humphrey, a member of the committee, said he would be pushing to have Mr Nelson brought before MLAs to explain the shambles.

Neil Wilson, the Conservative's Stormont candidate for East Belfast, said: "Clearly something has gone badly wrong. UEFA needs to be assured that Northern Ireland isn't a soft touch.

"Now is the time for the IFA to step up to the plate."

Belfast Telegraph


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