Fifa wins German injunction stopping Viagogo offering World Cup tickets
Fifa, soccer’s international governing body, today claimed an initial victory over Viagogo, the online ticket marketplace, in a dispute over sales for this year’s World Cup in Russia, as a court in Germany barred the company from offering tickets to the event in the German market at present.
Under the preliminary injunction issued by the Hamburg District Court, Switzerland-based Viagogo is banned from promoting World Cup tickets via the viagogo.de website prior to Fifa officially allocating such tickets and/or the company physically possessing them.
A violation of the injunction could be punishable by a fine of up to €250,000 ($306,000) or imprisonment for up to six months.
The World Cup takes place at 12 venues in 11 Russian cities from 14 June to 15 July.
Viagogo is one of the world’s leading platforms for the sale of secondary sports, music and entertainment tickets, but, while it has had official partnerships with many sports leagues and clubs, it also attracts controversy for enabling touts to make large profits on in-demand events.
The court accepted Fifa’s assertion that Viagogo was leading potential ticket buyers to believe that it had valid and deliverable tickets for the World Cup when this is not the case, and indeed the federation is not due to start issuing first-hand tickets to successful applicants until April of this year.
In a statement Fifa said: “The court deemed this behaviour to be misleading and in violation of the German Unfair Competition Act (UWG). It also found that offering (overpriced) tickets that were not yet available constituted a “deliberate obstruction” to FIFA with regard to its ticket sales.
“FIFA greatly welcomes the decision of the Hamburg District Court with this preliminary injunction, which will protect fans against viagogo AG’s misleading campaign and help prevent them from buying overpriced tickets on the secondary market.
“At the same time, it will help safeguard FIFA's fair-price ticket and distribution system for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Before April 2018, when FIFA will start to distribute physical tickets to fans, sellers in the secondary market will possibly not be able to guarantee the delivery of tickets, since they will not have them in their possession. Fans purchasing from unauthorised sources will therefore run the risk of not receiving the tickets that they ordered and paid for.”
Viagogo has yet to issue a response to the German court ruling.
Fifa stressed today that World Cup tickets are exclusively available to buy on its website at FIFA.com/tickets, while ticket-inclusive hospitality packages can be bought from partner Match Hospitality and its authorised sales agents at hospitality.fifa.com/hospitality2018.
It added that no other websites or parties can legitimately sell tickets for the tournament, and discourages fans from buying from such sources.
The federation said: “FIFA regards the illicit sale and distribution of tickets as a serious issue and views the security implications of the unauthorised transfer and/or resale of tickets as being of paramount importance. In light of the above, we encourage fans not to purchase tickets from unauthorised platforms/sellers.
“FIFA is entitled to void any ticket purchased via unauthorised distribution channels, including all tickets purchased through viagogo AG. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, FIFA and local authorities will conduct strict admission checks.”
Fifa disclosed this week that 3.14 million ticket requests have been submitted in the current sales window that began on 5 December, 2017, following the draw for the group stages of the tournament.
To date, the most applications have come from the host nation Russia, with the most foreign demand coming from the countries of Germany, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, USA, Spain, Poland and China. International applications account for 38 per cent of the requests.
The second sales phase closes on 31 January, at which point tickets for the 64 matches will be allocated, if necessary, by a random selection draw procedure, with fans being informed of the outcome by 12 March.
Tickets can be purchased online using credit cards issued by Visa, the official payment services partner of Fifa.
Fifa announced in early December that 742,760 tickets had been snapped up in the first phase, prior to the group fixtures being known.
The third phase, in which tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis, starts in mid-April.