40,000 may lose Cup tickets as firm is shut down

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A COMPANY that has taken more than pounds 2.4m in payments for World Cup tournament tickets has been closed down amid fears that tens of thousands of fans have not received them.

Yesterday, the Department of Trade and Industry petitioned the High Court to wind up Great Portland Entertainments Ltd, which is believed to have collected more than pounds 2.4m for about 40,000 tickets for World Cup matches in France.

The Government officials took action following allegations that the tickets had not been delivered to fans, and there will be a full hearing in July.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: "We became aware that the tickets had not been delivered by the dates promised and so we took action to stop the company trading.

'They were taking orders for tickets to all the England and Scotland matches, but the company was not an authorised supplier of World Cup tickets and the tickets have not materialised.

'We will not know if fans will get their money back until the Official Receiver has investigated the company."

Great Portland Entertainments Limited - which was set up as a private company in July 1996 - was based in Finchley Road, north London, and traded from rented offices in Regent Street. Both premises now appear to be empty.

Football Supporters Association spokesman Adam Brown said: "Fans will try to get tickets any way they can. If companies are saying they are offering them, there is no blame for the fan in trying to get some.

'It is terrible for those fans who thought that they had tickets, especially at such short notice, and I feel very sorry for them.

"I would hope they can be compensated, not just for the price of the tickets, but for the cost of travel and accommodation."

Great Portland Entertainments has also been the subject of a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary looking at its dealings in World Cup tickets. The programme claimed that the company bought up extra tickets that had been allocated to the African nation of Cameroon.

This allegedly enabled the firm to take advantage of the huge demand for tickets in this country, charging up to pounds 300 for early matches and pounds 500 for the later stages of the competition.

Westminster City Council trading standards officers have investigated Great Portland Entertainments and raided its London offices.

The company has denied that it was doing anything wrong and blamed the problem on the chaos surrounding the distribution of tickets by the French World Cup committee.