Three-year-old viagogo, arguably Europe’s leading secondary ticket company, this week announced that it signed a deal with the French Tennis Federation that makes viagogo the official secondary ticket exchange of the French Open, the first secondary ticketing deal ever to be struck in France.
The deal is a huge coup for UK-based viagogo, founded by former StubHub principal Eric Baker, in part because France is Europe’s third-largest market. It also further legitimizes viagogo, which has also struck deals to become the official secondary ticketing partner of two of England’s biggest football [soccer] clubs, Manchester United and Chelsea.
“The French Open is clearly the biggest, most prestigious live event in France,” Baker told TicketNews. “Anytime you can land a premier event such as Roland Garros, well, it’s a huge victory.”
Baker said that having the endorsement of world renowned events and artists – viagogo went into a groundbreaking partnership with Madonna a year ago this month for her European tour – goes a long way toward changing the image of “black market touts [scalpers]” in Europe.
“How governments, sanctioning bodies and many people in Europe see the ticketing business now is the same as it was in the U.S. 10 years ago,” Baker said. “Remember, I was thrown out of NFL offices more than a few times!”
Baker thinks that in the same manner consumers in the U.S. eventually came to accept and even respect secondary market ticket sales, so will those in Europe.
The fact that viagogo has been embraced by investors that include Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf is nothing to sneeze at either. In February, The Times of London reported that the husband and wife, both former Wimbledon champions, made the investment as part of a $15 million fundraising effort.
The European secondary ticket market is clearly ripe. Baker said viagogo did more business in its second year than StubHub did in it first three combined years. Baker said viagogo had announced recently that it has more than a million tickets listed and that sales have grown by more than 250 percent over the past year.
“Look, people having been buying ‘black market’ tickets since the gladiators went at each other,” Baker said. “Having a safe, efficient, legitimate and transparent model means, I think, that Europe will quickly embrace what viagogo does. I’m seeing the same evolution here as we did in America.”