Football: Black market tickets inquiry

Kim Sengupta
Friday 12 June 1998 23:02

FIFA HAS started an investigation into claims that World Cup tickets have been sold on the black market by the national association of a South American country.

Football's world ruling body has also received reports indicating this is not an isolated incident, and a number of other national associations may have supplied tickets to unauthorised channels instead of returning them for reallocation.

It is believed that one of the reasons for the acute shortage of tickets is that these have dropped out of the system. Fifa had assumed that some of the allocation, especially to third-world countries, would not be used and put back in the general pot.

The inquiry launched yesterday concerns an unnamed South American football association. Fifa's acting general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen said he could not name the country until it's association has been officially notified.

The Cameroonian football association is already the subject of an inquiry, and its president, Vincent Onana, was arrested last week as he was about the leave for France.

Mr Zen-Ruffinen said: "We believe that in South America there is certainly one association which has acted in this way, either on an individual basis or in the name of the federation, and the inquiry will show us.

"It's likely that the vast majority of the tickets sent to the Cameroon Football Federation by Fifa were resold by individuals to markets in other countries, either to individuals or to private companies."

Fifa and the French Organising Committee ( CFO) both say they distributed all the 2.65 million tickets for France 98 to approved organisations or national federations. However a consultant who worked for ISL Worldwide, Fifa's exclusive marketing partner, is under investigation for fraudulently promising to sell several thousand tickets.

French police have arrested Russell John O'Connell, a Briton working for a Swedish company, after he was allegedly found with 125 tickets for the Morocco v Norway game. He is said to have been selling tickets outside the ground. Police sources say they are investigating if Mr O'Connell has links with others suspected of large scale touting.

In the meantime a growing number of fans are complaining they have purchased tickets which have failed to materialise. Among them are a large group of Japanese fans already in France, who find they have not got the tickets which should have been waiting for them.

In one of the worst examples so far of chaotic conditions regarding ticket sales, 12,000 tickets destined for Japan has gone missing. Bruno Travarde, a spokesman for the World Cup organising committee, said three licensed ticket agencies had picked up their allocations, and efforts were being made to discover what happened to them.

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