In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why. - Tasker Watkins VC, LJ.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Harlequins v. Munster - Tickets

So, off we went to the Stoop, more nervous than a brass monkey when the temperature drops below freezing.

Instead, it turned out to be a marvellous day; early spring sunshine, a great game in a great rugby ground (the pitch cut so close it would probably have taken spin from 60 minutes on), and the Harlequins supporters doing themselves and their club proud. It was everything European rugby should be about.

Including, of course, the now-traditional Snaffling of the Tickets by Munster fans; the stadium would have been about 45% Munster red, 20% more than the allocation. It led to considerable questioning afterwards "how the hell did they get all those tickets?". Harlequins themselves announced that they were going to be checking up what happened, to see if any season ticket holders had sold their tickets on to Munster supporters.

It would be interesting to see how far they go. Because - and this is where the law element comes in - Harlequins' Twickenham neighbours, the RFU, have gone to Court to obtain details of people reselling tickets - and won.

The case was about the resale of tickets for internationals above face value on a website called Viagogo. The RFU took umbrage at tickets being touted, and took action to stop it (as it has before) seeking an order from the Courts forcing Viagogo to give the information about who was selling these tickets on their site - what's known as a Norwich Pharmacal order.

The RFU won in the High Court, in the Court of Appeal, and on appeal to the UK Supreme Court. You can read the decision HERE - it's an interesting one on the balance between free speech and privacy, and trying to do right by the ordinary fans who can be priced out of it by touts, and Lord Kerr's sympathy for the game is obvious - but the key is that the RFU's interest in preventing wrongful sale of its tickets or breach of the tickets under which the conditions under which tickets sold was not disproportionate, and it was reasonable to oblige Viagogo to hand over the information.

So, what if Harlequins were to look at, which, when it comes to organising getting extra tickets for Munster fans for games, and getting to them, may be likened to crowd-sourcing Operation Bagration? There's a very, very strong ban on over-priced selling - anyone trying it will be banned from the site in short order - but would it be proportionate for Harlequins to seek information about who sold Munster fans the extra tickets? Would it be excessive, if it was just the same as someone with a spare swapping it with an opposition fan - something which everyone in rugby is familiar with and cherishes? Would it be classed as a fishing expedition?

My gut feeling is  that Harlequins - whose hospitality won them nothing but praise from Munster - have far too much sense to take it that far. In fact, they may well find that many of the season ticket holders were Munster expats who reverted coming to home colours for one game - and that their hospitality may well bring in more such season ticket holders to a great club for the coming seasons. But it does mean that when looking at your ticket it might, just might, sometimes be worth reading the terms on the back.

Edited to update some links.