Ticket touting and football

Legislation dealing with football matches

The practice of ‘ticket touting’ – where tickets for events are bought and then sold on at vastly inflated prices – is huge business within the UK. Most people will have turned up at an event and seen touts trying to flog their wares to ticketless punters outside a venue. Such a practice involving football matches, however, is illegal in the UK.

The following pieces of legislation deal with ticket touting for football matches:

  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (CJPOA 1994).
  • Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 (VCRA 2006).
  • Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007.

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

Section 166 of CJPOA 1994 makes it an offence to tout tickets for football matches by creating the following offence for an unauthorised person to:

  • sell a ticket for a designated football match; or
  • otherwise to dispose of such a ticket to another person.

As s 166 has been in place for a number of years, ticket tout practices evolved to find ways round the legislation. This included:

  • offering an item of nominal value – eg, a pen, scarf or pin badge – at an inflated price with the inclusion of a ‘free’ match ticket;
  • offering tickets in exchange for other goods or services;
  • offering unauthorised hospitality style packages with a ticket included.

As s 166 of CJPOA 1994 became less able to combat ticket touting in football, the government brought in new legislation to bring the law up to speed.

Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006

Section 53 of VCRA 2006 amended s 166 of CJPOA 1994 and extended the clamp down on ticket touts. It is now an offence:

  • for newspapers to carry advertising for ticket touts;
  • for touts to claim that they are giving a ticket away free with another product;
  • for touts to offer tickets with a wider hospitality/travel package;
  • to supply touts with tickets.

Does it matter at what price the ticket is sold?

The price of the ticket sold is immaterial as to whether there has been an offence as touts often sell tickets below face value immediately prior to the match beginning. The real issue is whether public order is jeopordised: any unauthorised sale of tickets can breach public order by decreasing the segregation of supporters at football matches.

Does the sale have to be in the course of trade of business?

It used to be a requirement under CJPOA 1994 that the sale was in the course of trade of business. This has now been removed by VCRA 2006 as this is not a concern from a public order perspective.

Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007

The above legislation is concerned with ticket touting for ‘regulated’ football matches. The Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order was introduced in 2007 to increase the definition of regulated football matches to include:

  • any match involving one or more teams who are members of the Premier League, the Football League or the Football Conference;
  • every match in England or Wales in which an international team or a club side from outside of England and Wales will play;
  • every match outside of England and Wales in which a national team representing England or Wales will play;
  • every match in the UEFA Cup (now UEFA Europa League);
  • every match in the UEFA Champions League;
  • every match in UEFA European Championships;
  • every match in FIFA World Cup Tournaments;
  • every match in the FIFA World Club Championship.

This means the legislation in place to deal with ticket touting in football applies to all games played within England, all games that English sides may be involved in, and all games the Welsh and English national teams will be involved in, including World Cup and European Championships qualifying matches and international friendly matches.

Does the legislation cover the unauthorised selling of tickets over the internet?

Section 53 of VCRA 2006 includes trading on the internet within the definition of ticket touting. An offence would only arise, however, if any part of the transaction occurs within England and Wales as that is the limit of the Act’s territory.

What if I purchase a ticket from a foreign website?

The offence will only occur if any part of the transaction occurs within England and Wales but this does not include the actually purchasing of the ticket.


A criminal conviction for ticket touting carries with it a maximum penalty of a fine of £5,000. A football banning order can also be imposed on a tout as a preventative measure.

How do I know if the ticket I purchase is authorised?

If you purchase a ticket from someone outside a football ground, it should be clear they are not an authorised seller of the ticket. Tickets sold over the internet are more problematic as sometimes clubs will sell through authorised agents. The only way really to guarantee you have an authorised ticket is if you purchase it directly from the club or through their official website.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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