Robbie Earle axed by ITV over tickets

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The Independent Football

World Cup pundit Robbie Earle was axed by ITV today after tickets for matches in South Africa were found to have been used for "unauthorised purposes".

The broadcaster said a "substantial number" of tickets, which were for Earle's friends and family, had been passed to a "third party".

ITV had investigated how its allocation had been used after governing body FIFA raised concerns generally.

A block of tickets for the Holland-Denmark match had aroused suspicions.

Earle is a former Wimbledon and Port Vale player who also played for Jamaica in the World Cup in 1998.

In a statement, ITV said: "Following claims by FIFA that official 2010 World Cup tickets may have been used for ambush marketing, ITV has reviewed its entire ticket allocation for the tournament.

"Immediate investigations indicated that a block of ITV tickets would appear to have been used for unauthorised purposes during the Holland v Denmark match.

"Further inquiries have revealed that a substantial number of tickets allocated to Robbie Earle for family and friends have been passed to a third party in breach of Fifa rules.

"As a result, Robbie Earle's contract with ITV has been terminated with immediate effect."

A spokesman for Earle's agent said there was no comment at this stage.

Earle has been an ITV pundit since 2002.

The incident relates to claims that a group of women at the Holland-Denmark match were involved in a marketing stunt.

The group of 36, all wearing orange mini-dresses, were ejected from the game when FIFA bosses accused them of wearing the outfits to promote a brand of beer which was not one of the official sponsors.

The practice is known as "ambush marketing".

Members of the group were found to still have tickets in their possession and it is understood they were part of Earle's allocation.

Terms and conditions of the tickets prevent them from being passed on or sold to third parties.

ITV is not thought to be investigating anybody else.

Tonight Earle, who is also an ambassador for England's 2018 World Cup bid, said: "Call me naive but I didn't think I was doing anything wrong.

"I hope when people hear the full story they will see me in a different light."