Ticket touts are ‘classic entrepreneurs’ who should be allowed to operate without interference, says new Culture Secretary Sajid Javid
Sporting and arts groups angered by minister’s defence of ticket resellers
The new Culture Secretary has angered arts groups, sports fans and MPs after it emerged that he had lavished praise on ticket touts as “classic entrepreneurs” who should be allowed to operate without interference.
Sajid Javid, who replaced Maria Miller after she resigned from the Cabinet this week, argued that touts were simply filling a gap in the market by supplying tickets to fans who wanted to attend the most popular sporting and arts events.
Mr Javid takes over the Culture brief as frustration builds about the rapid growth of the “secondary ticketing” market, which has seen online touts buy large numbers of tickets and resell them, sometimes at a huge profit.
Internet touts are advertising pairs of tickets for Sunday’s sold-out Premier League clash between Manchester City and Liverpool at close to £5,000, while tickets for Kate Bush’s comeback concerts are on sale for up to £2,500 each.
MPs of all parties are preparing to launch a Commons bid to tighten up the rules on secondary ticketing, a business which is now believed to be worth more than £1bn a year in Britain.
However, three years ago, while still a backbench MP, Mr Javid argued strongly against any intervention to restrict the trade.
“Ticket resellers act like classic entrepreneurs, because they fill a gap in the market that they have identified. They provide a service that can help people who did not obtain a supply of tickets in the original sale to purchase them for sporting and cultural events,” he told the Commons. “As long as those tickets have been acquired genuinely and lawfully, it is an honest transaction, and there should be no government restriction on someone’s ability to sell them.”
He accused people trying to limit the trade of being “chattering middle classes and champagne socialists, who have no interest in helping the common working man earn a decent living by acting as a middleman in the sale of a proper service”.
Malcolm Clarke, the chairman of the Football Supporters Association, told The Independent: “We would be very uncomfortable with the Secretary of State’s view. We don’t think any tickets should be sold above face value.”
Stuart Littlewood, the chairman of the Concert Promoters’ Association, described Mr Javid’s comments as “naïve”.
A spokesman for the Royal Opera House said the organisation wanted to discuss the issue with the new minister. He pointed out that many of its ticket prices were underwritten by the taxpayer.
“When touts purchase these cheap seats and resell them at a vastly inflated price … it is public money that subsidises them,” he said.
Alan Davey, the chief executive of Arts Council England, said its priority was to support a thriving arts and culture sector which was accessible to the widest audience.
“The issue of tickets being re-sold is one that the industry takes very seriously, and the organisations we fund put preventative measures in place to deter these sales,” he added.
The Conservative MP Mike Weatherley, the co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse, said: “I think he is wrong on this and it is my job to re-educate him. If money is going to people who are speculators it is not in the best interests of the music industry.”
The group will attempt to table amendments to the Consumer Bill currently going through Parliament to force online touts to provide more information about their tickets and compensation arrangements if an event is cancelled.
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