By Alfred Branch, Jr. Ticket brokers in the UK can breathe a sign of relief today with the release of a new government report...

By Alfred Branch, Jr.

Ticket brokers in the UK can breathe a sign of relief today with the release of a new government report that calls for monitoring but no new regulations for the secondary ticket market in that country.

The 54-page report, commissioned by the House of Commons and researched and written by its Culture, Media and Sport Committee, states that while there is some abuse in the industry by unscrupulous “touts,” it believes that the free market for tickets should be preserved without government interference, except as a last resort.

In recent years, the UK secondary ticket market has risen dramatically, mirroring its larger cousin in the U.S. British officials estimate their secondary ticket market at about ₤1 billion, or just under $2 billion, and it currently requires ticket brokerages establish relationships with football (soccer) teams to handle ticket reselling. The football clubs represent far and away the largest market for tickets at the primary and secondary level in the country.

“The Committee found that the rise of the internet has increased the opportunities for secondary sales of tickets and for large profits to be made by businesses and consumers who make no contribution to putting on the events or to the industry. It concludes that the practice is unfair and must be addressed, but adds that ‘a voluntary solution is infinitely preferable to statutory regulation’ and that ‘intervention by Government should only be considered as a last resort’.

The Committee accepts that the organisers’ desire for the secondary market to be curbed is ‘largely motivated by concern for the long term well-being of the industries in which they operate’ and that this is ‘something beyond merely protecting their own commercial interests which, in the short term, they could do simply by raising their prices, so that there was no profit to be made by touting’. But the Committee has ‘reservations about the criminal law being used as a way of supporting organisers’ efforts to select the audiences for their events, essentially as an aid to their self policing of touting’. It also believes that, while a blanket refund policy may not be a realistic option for organisers, the limited returns service which the primary market now provides to consumers who are simply seeking to avoid making a loss on tickets which they are unable to use, is not a satisfactory alternative to what the secondary market offers consumers, and should be improved,” the report stated.

In an interview with TicketNews, viagogo.com founder and CEO Eric Baker said the report marked a victory for ticket brokers and fans in the UK. “People should have the right to resell tickets, and fans should have the right to buy them, so I’m glad to see that the committee came to the same conclusion,” he said.

The UK secondary market resembles the one he saw several years ago in the U.S. when he helped create StubHub!, Baker said, and he welcomes authorities cracking down on the “dodgy resellers” that still litter the market because fans “need alternatives to illegal scalpers.”

Some promoters and venue operators lobbied the government for tighter restrictions because they disagreed with brokers profiting from ticket reselling. Artists have begun quietly reselling premium tickets to their own concerts in order to boost their revenues.

“This report was a complete validation for us and the fans, because the committee was able to see that our safe, secure guarantees are a good thing,” Baker said.

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(The image accompanying this story is from FirstBusinessSX.com)