Crackdown on the trade in secondary ticketing: Would you buy a used ticket from this man?

Secondary ticketing is seen by many as ripping off the public – but the man advising arts lobbyists runs a company accused of fuelling it

Ministers in charge of Britain’s major sports and cultural events are being advised by the chief executive of a business accused of fuelling the trade in “rip-off” tickets.

Ajay Chowdhury was appointed last year as a non-executive director of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Whitehall department that oversees the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House and the organisation for next year’s Rugby World Cup.

However, he is also boss of Seatwave, a large online company that has upset Britain’s arts and sports groups by offering customers the chance to buy second-hand tickets, some of which are sold at vastly inflated prices.

The £1bn-a-year “secondary ticketing” industry, which makes money from additional surcharges, has come in for fierce criticism from pressure groups, MPs and the public for providing a vehicle that could be used to fuel a potentially unlawful trade, which Scotland Yard has linked to organised crime.

The National Theatre, sports groups such as the Rugby Football Union, and other bodies have lobbied the Government asking ministers to get a grip on the industry on behalf of the public – as they did for the London Olympics, for which all tickets had to be sold at cover price.

The All Blacks celebrate winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup The All Blacks celebrate winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup (Getty Images)
But Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary and a former banker, has refused to get involved. One of the consequences is that tickets for next year’s Rugby World Cup are expected to be sold for several times their cover price.

Mr Chowdhury is a supporter of Mr Javid, who recently described the “ticket resellers” as “classic entrepreneurs, because they fill a gap in the market that they have identified”.

Mike Weatherley, a Tory MP who set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticketing Abuse last December, told The Independent: “Sajid Javid is a very competent person but he is wrong on secondary tickets and it is my job to educate him.”

He added that he would like to discuss the issue with Mr Javid and Mr Chowdhury, to ensure that the Government’s proposals “are in the public interest and not in the narrow interests of the people on the DCMS executive board”.

The Independent put his comments to the DCMS press office. Hours later, Mr Weatherley called back to clarify that he was “now satisfied that ministers were not acting in narrow interests, and Mr Chowdhury is not involved in policy but only in driving the department’s costs down.”

Clive Efford, shadow minister for sport, said: “I was completely unaware of Mr Chowdhury’s position. There must be a conflict of interest. Was this person involved in any discussions relating to the decision to allow the secondary ticket market to operate?

“I will be raising this matter in Parliament. It is the ordinary fans who are going to find themselves completely ripped off. The Rugby World Cup organisers don’t want it to happen but the Government won’t listen and thousands of fans are going to be furious when tickets go on sale.”

Last December Helen Grant, the sports minister, had promised that the tournament would be “enjoyed by rugby supporters and not exploited by ticket touts”.

Kate Bush fans were incensed this year when tickets for the singer’s first tour in 35 years sold out in 15 minutes – only to be flogged later on by touts at huge mark-ups. Tickets were originally priced up to £135 but Seatwave had a pair on offer for £3,537.

Mr Chowdhury was appointed to his Whitehall role in April last year. A few months later, he became chief executive of Seatwave, which claims it is “Europe’s biggest ticket exchange”, just as pressure mounted on the Government to reform the industry.

Mr Weatherley’s all-party parliamentary group has found that more and more fraudulent or cancelled tickets are being sold on websites, leaving fans stranded at venues – although the main websites, including Seatwave, all have refund or guarantee policies.

Mr Chowdhury told The Independent: “We provide a marketplace and 97 per cent of tickets sold on our site come from fans. We completely believe in the free market and you should be allowed to sell their tickets on.

“Lots of tickets are sold under face-value. Less than 10 per cent of tickets that go on sale end up on the secondary ticketing market. An incredibly small proportion of tickets relating to the arts world are sold on our site.”

A DCMS spokesperson said: “Non-executive directors declare all business interests. They do not make policy decisions and would be asked to leave any board discussion that could result in a potential conflict of interest.

“The DCMS Select Committee looked into the ticket market and concluded that new legislation was not needed, which is why the Government maintains the system put in place by the previous Government.

“We have encouraged event organisers to work with ticketing agents to increase controls to limit secondary sales, and many of them are doing this. These include using bar-coding technology, named tickets and staggered ticket release.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory