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Beef Of The Week #364: The parliamentary representatives for Selby & Ainsty and Washington & Sunderland West v Viagogo’s security guard

By | Published on Friday 21 July 2017

Nigel Adams, Sharon Hodgson, Stuart Galbraith, Adam Webb, Claire Turnham, Annabella Coldrick

So, Viagogo then. Via-fucking-gogo. You know Viagogo right? Wanna see a popstar perform their pop songs? Want to pay over the odds for the privilege? Like doing business with shady shits? Then Via-fucking-gogo is for you.

In the early days of secondary ticketing, Viagogo were well chatty. Whenever anything of note happened in the world of gigs and tours, there were Viagogo’s PR reps on the phone telling us that the ticket resale site’s founder Eric Baker was well opinionated on this issue, or topic, or development, and would be well up for chit chatting about it – hell, fuck doing an interview, that sounds like hard work, have a pre-prepared quote on us.

But then, as secondary ticketing went from being annoying to being controversial to being scandalous to being an enemy of the people, Viagogo stopped sending us a steady stream of PR emails and instead relocated to a cave in Switzerland where the company employed a new corporate communications strategy something along the lines of “la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, we can’t hear you!”

We’ve tried our best to see if there are any hidden messages contained within the constant stream of ads that Viagogo posts onto Google – ads designed to make less web-savvy customers assume that the touted tickets the platform sells are somehow official – though we’ve not as yet been able to ascertain any substantial meaning from those blurbs. Except that we possibly disagree on the definition of the word ‘official’.

With ticket touting back on the political agenda in the UK, partly due to MP Sharon Hodgson refusing to let the issue lie, and partly as a result of the music community launching its FanFair campaign, Viagogo were invited to attend a select committee hearing on the secondary ticketing market back in March.

Now, when a parliamentary select committee invites you to attend one of their hearings what they really mean is “you better fucking show up you fuckers, or we’ll fucking kill you”. Though it would be considered somewhat unparliamentary to actually write that, and technically they don’t have the constitutional power to kill you.

Viagogo decided to interpret the invite as just that and politely declined the opportunity to face off MPs who had already given the company’s rivals quite the grilling in a previous session. At the time the chair of Parliament’s culture select committee, Damian Collins MP, said that he felt “considerable disappointment that Viagogo have decided not to send a representative despite the fact that they have a substantial office on Cannon Street”.

Committee member Nigel Huddleston MP was a little more forthright, remarking that Viagogo had shown “if not contempt for Parliament, a lack of respect to Parliament and by extension the British public”.

Then, of course, there was that silly General Election and Parliament wound itself down for the big vote. However, in a letter earlier this week, the aforementioned Hodgson, MP for Washington & Sunderland West, and her ally on this issue from the other benches, Nigel Adams, MP for Selby & Ainsty, confirmed to the powers that be at Viagogo that they and their parliamentary colleagues still had a bunch of questions they’d like answering.

They also noted that it had been discovered Viagogo was now operating from a new office in London on Fenchurch Street, but that the receptionist in the new building seemed to have been instructed to deny the firm’s presence. “We find this an odd practice for a company that contends it is behaving in an entirely above-board manner”, they wrote.

Assuming that the chances of getting a reply to their letter from the secretive top guard at Viagogo were pretty low, Hodgson and Adams yesterday decided to call on the secondary ticketing firm directly at their nice new London base, at least to hand over a hard copy of their missive in person.

They were joined by representatives from the aforementioned FanFair campaign, aggrieved former Viagogo customers and the promoter of Ed Sheeran’s 2018 stadium shows that – unlike its competitors – Viagogo has refused to block from resale, despite Team Sheeran’s pledge to cancel every touted ticket.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Viagogo wasn’t especially welcoming to the visitors, sending out a security guard to get rid. Security told the MPs and campaigners that their employers “don’t want to see you”, before threatening to call the police if they didn’t fuck off.

Adams told The Guardian: “Viagogo told Parliament they couldn’t attend the [culture select committee] inquiry because they are registered in Switzerland and do not have adequate representation in the UK. But we have found that they have this secret office so we have come here to meet them in person”.

Hodgson added: “In my twelve years in Parliament I’ve never been turned away. We’re just trying to politely represent our constituents and Parliament. Normally if you go and see someone [as an MP] you get the most senior person to sit down and talk to you, but here we’ve been told if we don’t leave they will call the police”.

Adams concluded: “We’re both reasonable members of parliament and all we want is to drop off a letter. It’s extraordinary that we are being turned away. This is clearly a shifty, slippery and secretive company”.

So, Viagogo then. Via-fucking-gogo. Wanna overpriced ticket to an Ed Sheeran show that will almost certainly be cancelled before you get to the venue? Step right up. Want to discuss the ethics and practices of secondary ticketing? You know where you can go. Where you can Viagogo. Where you can Via-fucking-gogo.