Police arrest 17 in illegal ticket sales inquiry

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Police raided the historic National Sporting Club run by Bob Willis, the former England cricketer, yesterday as part of an investigation into alleged illegal ticket sales for this year's European football championships and the FA Cup final.

Seventeen people were arrested in raids on 11 companies in London, which police suspect have been offering unauthorised tickets for either Euro '96, which takes place in England in June, or the Cup Final in 10 days' time.

Although no tickets were found during the raids detectives believe that some companies specialising in lucrative hospitality deals may have been planning to use stolen tickets or obtain supplies from foreign Euro '96 allocations.

But David Willis, a director of the National Sporting Club and brother of the former England fast bowler, last night denied any wrongdoing and said that the club believed that it had been authorised to sell tickets for Euro '96.

"As far as we are concerned everything we have done from the word go has been completely legal and therefore we were completely astonished to get a visit from the constabulary this morning," said Mr Willis, who took over the club with his brother five years ago.

"We applied for tickets for Euro '96 on official forms about seven months ago. We then found a hospitality suite, which is an office block overlooking Wembley stadium and promoted packages for match tickets and hospitality varying in price from pounds 150 to pounds 350.

"We are offering a very high-class hospitality deal where people are entertained to unlimited amounts of champagne before being given a first-class four- course meal and a seat at the match."

The police raid lasting several hours was a severe embarrassment for the club which is based at the Cafe Royal in London and was founded 105 years ago by the Earl of Lonsdale and the Marquess of Queensberry. For many years it administered boxing in Britain.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said yesterday: "Making an offer to sell or to be able to provide tickets is itself an offence if you are not authorised to do so. All the places we went to were not authorised therefore, if any of them have entered deals to provide tickets then that is an offence."

Alec McGivan, media relations manager for Euro '96, which is being organised by the Football Association, said: "Our terms and conditions clearly state that tickets must not be sold at a price higher than the face value. They must also not be sold as part of a hospitality package without the FA's prior consent ...

"If it becomes clear that our terms and conditions have been broken we will seek to take the necessary action."