London 2012 organisers criticised for Visa ticket deal

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The Independent Online

London 2012 organisers have been criticised by consumer group Which? over their deal with the card firm Visa which prevents British sports fans using other cards to buy tickets.

Which? says it is "outrageous" that British Olympics fans will not be able to pay for tickets by MasterCard or American Express, or withdraw cash at any Olympic sites unless they have a card which runs on the Visa payment system. Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said: "It's outrageous that some UK sports fans should be discriminated against in this way. We want the London 2012 organising committee to take steps to ensure there's a level playing field and that UK consumers have equal access to the Games, whether or not they are Visa cardholders. If it doesn't, we'll call on the Government to step in."

He also pointed out the "bizarre" situation that the restrictions apply only to UK cardholders; other cards can be used to buy tickets abroad.

London 2012 says the same system was used for the Beijing and Vancouver Games but it is looking at other payment methods. It defended the Visa deal saying it would not be able to raise the funds to stage the Games unless it offered such exclusive agreements to corporate sponsors.

"Alternative payment methods will also be available," it said, explaining that it was "working now on how to incorporate those options into the plans and ensure that everyone purchasing tickets and attending the Games is informed about these alternatives well in advance." Organisers added that cash machines accepting all cards would also be provided at access points to Olympic venues.

Visa said fans could obtain a pre-paid card with credit to buy tickets or use other payment methods. "There are 91 million Visa cards in the UK of which more than 70 per cent are debit cards," the company said in a statement. "People who don't currently have a Visa debit or credit card are able to obtain a Visa pre-paid card, which can be used to purchase Olympic Games tickets. People can also choose to pay by cash or cheque.

"We are providing funds for the 1,200 elite athletes competing to become part of Team GB and Paralympics GB," the company added. "These funds will be allocated across all sports and will go towards coaching, medical support and research."