Fifa executive in World Cup ticket scandal

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The Independent Football

One of Fifa's most senior executives could profit by more than £10m from World Cup ticket sales in a scandal that will horrify supporters and raise fears that some senior officials ­ and individuals within sponsor companies ­ are exploiting their positions to milk the tournament for personal gain.

In a move that has caused outrage in Trinidad & Tobago, who face England in the group stage, the Caribbean nation's entire ticket allocation has been allocated to a travel agency owned by Jack Warner, a Fifa vice-president who is also the president of CONCACAF and a special advisor to the Trinidad & Tobago FA.

Warner, 62, a former history lecturer turned property developer, is a director of the agency Simpaul Travel Services Limited, as is his wife, Maureen, and sons, Daryan and Darryl. The company is not selling individual match tickets, but rather "travel packages" that include tickets and accommodation but, bizarrely, not travel, either to Germany, or between venues, which costs extra.

A company sales executive, Natasha Simmons, confirmed to The Independent yesterday that basic packages, excluding flights but including 12 nights in a hotel in Germany and seats for Trinidad & Tobago's three group games ­ against England, Paraguay and Sweden ­ cost $30,000 in local currency (£2,720).

The face value of the three tickets combined is a maximum of £200.

Simpaul's other costs are estimated to be around £820 per package for hotels, plus £40 for a "supporters' kit" that comprises a shirt, a wristband, a flag, a travel bag, a whistle, a poster and a fridge magnet.

Simpaul stand to make around £1,660 profit per package. The company will not confirm how many tickets it has, but local estimates suggest between 6,500 and 8,000 per game. It is estimated that Simpaul could make between £10.8m and £13.3m profit if it sells every ticket as part of a package.

The initial revelation that Warner, who is from Trinidad, was the owner of Simpaul and that his firm had secured all his country's allocation, came after an investigation by the local Trinidad Express newspaper last month.

Neither Warner nor Oliver Camps, the president of the TTFA and a friend of Warner's, were available for comment last night. Camps had earlier told the local paper: "The [TTFA] executive asked that no one answer any questions at the moment."

Following an uproar in Trinidad that Warner's company could be profiteering at the expense of fans, Fifa have announced that they have appointed Ernst & Young as "independent external auditors to monitor and evaluate the overall ticketing project for the 2006 World Cup".

The auditing firm's remit includes a whole range of technical and ethical issues, including situations like that in Trinidad, which, while not illegal, does contravene the spirit of Fifa's anti-profiteering message on tickets.

Fifa has also acted to quell the Trinidad controversy by saying that Simpaul's website now carries the message that packages do not include match tickets. The agency's website now says "you must source these directly via from TTFA or via the Fifa website". The Independent's direct enquiry to Simpaul yesterday exposed this as untrue. Simpaul is still offering tickets. A spokeswoman at the TTFA also said that Simpaul was the place to buy tickets.

The government in Trinidad is under pressure to intervene and allow sales directly to fans, and not via Simpaul.

In a separate development, two ticket agencies that have been advertising World Cup seats on the internet and in newspapers have told The Independent that they source their tickets via tournament sponsors and national associations.

One company based in America named a major tournament sponsor, whose parent company is American, as one source, and also named a major European FA as another source of its tickets. Fifa yesterday declined to comment on individual cases being investigated, although the timing of Ernst & Young's appointment ­ last week ­ suggests the world governing body is increasing its efforts to clamp down on profiteering and black market sales.

The agencies that claim to be being supplied with seats by sponsors and FAs are typically selling seats at more than 10 times their face value.

"We have spent a lot of time on nurturing contacts [with sponsor companies and FAs] and spent a lot of money on these tickets," a spokeswoman for one agency said.