Thursday, 13 October 2005
While my Department has no statutory or regulatory responsibility in the area of ticket touting and ticket forgery, the three main national governing bodies of sport, the GAA, IRFU and FAI, were consulted by departmental officials on the issue some time ago. These consultations revealed a strong commitment on the part of the governing bodies to the elimination of ticket touting in respect of the sporting events under their control and they have systems in place to deal with ticket touting which enable them to trace any touted ticket to the person to whom it was issued and to take any action considered appropriate. In addition, a number of organisations have sophisticated systems in place aimed at eliminating ticket forgery, which can be experienced at major sporting events, and which prevent forged ticket holders from gaining entry to events.
Legal advice obtained by the Department of Tourism, Sport and Recreation in 2001 indicated that responsibility for arrangements to ensure the availability of tickets on a fair basis and the enforcing of such arrangements is primarily a matter for the event organisers themselves. In light of the policies of the major sporting organisations in combating ticket touting, the enactment of legislation may not be required at this time.
The Minister may be aware of a Private Members' Bill which I introduced in May regarding ticket touting, the Prohibition of Ticket Touts Bill. In view of the fact that the IRFU, the FAI, the GAA and Ticketmaster supported the Bill, and Ticketmaster said it was a genuine attempt to tackle the scourge of touts, the Government should accept the Bill as a positive way forward. Will he give a commitment today that, if I introduce the Bill during Private Members' time, the Government will support it in view of the support it has received from everyone involved in organising concerts or major games?
Will the Minister agree that it was a scandal that the ticket touts who ripped-off people who bought tickets to attend the Eminem concert last summer were refunded the money? This indicates the need for legislation in this whole area. Is he aware of legislation in most states in the US to cover this activity, which is referred to as ticket scalping? There is legislation in England that forbids the sale of tickets near sports grounds and so on. As far as I am aware, this is now the only country that has no legislation to deal with the scourge of ticket touting.
Before the all-Ireland, in front of the Gresham Hotel, I witnessed an individual who arrived from America that morning paying €2,000 for two tickets, which is not fair. The GAA, the FAI and the IRFU will find it very difficult to track tickets because they can be passed on to different people. A ticket could change hands four times before someone eventually sits on the seat. It is very difficult to track tickets.
Procedures have moved on from the days of the old cardboard tickets. Because of modern technology, it has become much easier to trace tickets.
The Bill was introduced in the House some years ago. At the time, it was referred to various Departments, including the Attorney General's office. The Attorney General expressed grave doubts about the constitutionality of the provisions in the legislation, including the question of proportionality. Where sanctions were concerned——
At the time, the relevant Departments and the Attorney General raised serious concerns about the proposed legislation and their views have not changed in the interim. Some sporting organisations are of the view that the legislation would only drive the practice underground and would not resolve the problem. I am not denigrating the proposed legislation, I am stating the position in this regard.
Despite the Minister's reservations, I support the concept of legislation to deal with this problem. The fact that unfortunate people with young families are being ripped-off outside some of the major events by the touts is not acceptable. I ask the Minister to re-examine the legislation to ensure that what he said is the up-to-date position in the matter. He should reconsider the matter because the touts are as active as ever. They are creaming off money to a greater extent now than was the case in the past.
The Minister should reconsider the position and support Deputy Deenihan's Bill, which is sensible and would have broad party support. Many of us who have been involved in sporting organisations for more than 20 years support that position. Does the Minister accept it is unacceptable that members of the GAA and the FAI who coach under age teams must pay extraordinary prices to attend important fixtures in Croke Park and Lansdowne? People who train under age teams were last night asking me to try to get tickets for the international soccer match. Many emigrants must pay over the odds for a ticket when they return to Ireland to see their county team in Croke Park. A number of them paid €1,000 for tickets for this year's all-Ireland football final. Legislation must be introduced to address this problem.
Ticket distribution is the responsibility of the sporting organisations. Their representatives have assured the Department at a number of meetings that they are strongly committed to eliminating ticket touting and they are doing their best to ensure tickets end up in the proper hands and not the hands of ticket touts.