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
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Financial Controller

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opening has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Recruitment Genius: Medical & Economic Writer / Consultant

£23000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Me...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower