Ray Parlour, the Arsenal and England midfielder, was at the centre of a ticket touting investigation by his club last night after it emerged that seats bought by him for last weekend's controversial FA Cup tie against Liverpool at Highbury had found their way on to the black market and were sold for profit outside the ground.
The revelation, following investigations by The Independent, not only raises questions about how a player's ticket allocation fell into the hands of touts but also brings fresh doubts about Arsenal's ability to find out who threw a coin at Liverpool's Jamie Carragher during Sunday's match.
The seats allocated to Parlour were located in Highbury's Lower East Stand – the area from where Arsenal officials believe the coin was thrown. Carragher was sent off after throwing it back into the crowd. Arsenal have said that if the original coin-thrower is positively identified, he or she will be banned for life. But evidence that touted tickets were being used in the area is certain to reduce the chances of Arsenal or the police tracing the culprit. Arsenal said last night that they were investigating the circumstances that led to Parlour's tickets being sold by a tout.
"We can confirm that Ray Parlour purchased tickets for the Liverpool fixture, some of which he gave to an acquaintance in good faith," a spokeswoman said. "We are fully satisfied that Ray has acted properly. However, we would like to stress that misuse of tickets is something that the club takes very seriously and in light of this information, a full investigation will be carried out."
Parlour bought a batch of tickets in the Lower East Stand at face value, £26 each. One of the fans who ended up buying one of them was Ciaron Cronin, a 21-year-old student from Dublin.
"I was over in London for the weekend and went to the game with two friends," he said. "I'm a big football fan and was a neutral at the game. My friends are both Liverpool fans. We bought the tickets from a tout outside Arsenal tube station and paid £50 each. He seemed to have about 10 in his hand and numbers didn't seem to be a problem. I noticed afterwards that the name on the three tickets we had was Parlour."
An Arsenal spokeswoman said last night that the club had a strict policy on touting – which was made illegal some years ago as part of anti-hooliganism measures – and that Arsenal had been clamping down on illegal sales.
"We've even been going around West End agencies trying to identify touts and stamp out this practice," the spokeswoman said. "It is something we take very seriously."
While Arsenal maintain that Parlour "acted properly" in relation to the tickets for last weekend's FA Cup tie, players who have been proved to be involved in the selling of tickets to the black market in the past have been harshly dealt with.
Andy Impey and Tony Cottee, for example, were fined £20,000 and £12,000, respectively in 1999 after it emerged that tickets allocated to them for Leicester City's Worthington Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur had been sold on the black market. Crowd trouble followed between unsegregated fans.
Several other Leicester players were implicated in the controversy, which was the subject of a Football Association investigation. Impey was banned from receiving tickets to international games and FA Cup semi-finals and finals for five years, while Cottee's equivalent ban was three years.
The FA said last night that it would wait for details from Arsenal before deciding what, if any, action to take in relation to Parlour's tickets. The ruling body is currently involved in talks with the Football League and the Premier League aimed at finding ways to eradicate crowd trouble and missile throwing. Ticket touting and ground security in general are also issues that will arise in those discussions.
As Arsenal were continuing their investigations into Sunday's coin-throwing and starting the probe into the touting, the club's manager, Arsène Wenger, also called for new measures to stop bad behaviour by crowds. "These incidents must be stopped," he said. "Otherwise, it will soon be difficult to take a corner at an away venue because you'd be too scared."Reuse content