A group of UK ticket touts have committed £73,000 towards a lobbying campaign to fight the Labour Party’s plan to put a 10% cap on the resale of tickets. According to an investigation by Rob Davies at The Guardian, that financial commitment was made at an event in London involving US lobbying group the Coalition For Ticket Fairness. Attendees were told that if Labour’s plan is implemented “we are all fucked”.

Speaking to CMU, Adam Webb from FanFair - which campaigns against for-profit ticket touting or scalping - says, “The level of detail in The Guardian’s report is pretty astounding. It certainly reveals the true face of what we now commonly refer to as 'secondary ticketing', which is essentially a deep-seated collusion of interests between touts and platforms, all dancing to the tune of US scalpers and their investors. In this case, that’s the laughably-named Coalition For Ticketing Fairness”. 

Although the recent event sought to put in place a lobbying scheme that could stop any incoming Labour government from implementing its proposed new anti-touting laws, Webb adds that touts and ticket resale platforms coming together in this way could actually rally public support for Labour’s proposals. “I suspect this self-serving lobbying effort will actually have the opposite effect”, Webb says, adding, “I truly hope so”. 

Certainly Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, a long-term advocate of ticket touting regulation in Parliament, reckons that any move to employ Coalition For Ticket Fairness type tactics in the UK will only strengthen her party's resolve to get the price cap in place. 

She told CMU, “Following fourteen years of my campaigning on this issue, I am immensely proud that Labour has decided to put fans first and include regulating the secondary ticketing black market into its election manifesto. It is therefore unsurprising that these parasitic touting websites are pushing back against these common-sense consumer-friendly reforms. However, I was shocked at Rob Davies’ exposé and just how sinister these websites have become in their recent lobbying of MPs and their staff”. 

According to Davies’s report in The Guardian, the recent event was attended by more than 100 people who had each paid £189 to be there. Attendees heard from ticket trader Tony McGowen, who is now President of a newly formed UK branch of the CTF. “We are going to fight Parliament, we’re going to fight government … because if we don’t, bottom line is we are all fucked”, he declared. 

Attendees also heard from two representatives of CTF in the US, Jason Berger and Scot Tobias. They explained that, in lobbying terms, it is easier to stop a law from being introduced than it is to get an existing law changed. Professional lobbyists could be hired in the UK to try to stop any new Labour government from going ahead with its anti-touting plans, they said, but getting that kind of support “doesn’t come for free”.

The unofficial resale of tickets for profit is regulated to an extent in the UK. New regulations - and the better enforcement of existing laws - have gone into effect over the last decade, usually in response to campaigning by the likes of FanFair and Hodgson. 

However, last year those campaigners ramped things up by calling for an outright ban of for-profit resale in the UK, similar to a law now in force in Ireland. The Labour Party hasn't gone quite that far, but in March said that, if it formed the next government, it would put a 10% cap on the resale of tickets, which will hit industrial-level touts hard. 

Neither the touts nor the resale platforms they use want any kind of price cap to become law. In terms of the platforms, The Guardian reports that the founder of Gigsberg has already committed £5000 to any lobbying scheme, and Tobias from CTF US said that Viagogo and StubHub are “committed to the cause”. Representatives from the separate StubHub International company and US resale platform Vivid Seats - which is apparently about to launch in the UK - were also reportedly in attendance at this month’s event. 

However, with lobbying campaigns like this, the platforms don't usually want to be seen leading the charge, which is why you create organisations with names like the Coalition For Ticket Fairness. The touts would also rather remain anonymous, and - when speaking at the recent event - McGowen was keen to stress that those financially supporting the CTF UK campaign would not be publicly linked to any lobbying activity. 

“No one in this room needs to have their name put near anything that we are doing”, McGowen reportedly said. “Everything is done through another source, so don’t worry about identities coming out, because it’s not something that anyone in this room wants and it’ll never happen”. 

Although most of the specific backers of the CTF UK lobbying work may well remain anonymous, following The Guardian’s report anti-touting campaigners will be keen to spot and highlight any outcomes of those lobbying efforts. And, as Webb and Hodgson note, that could actually aid their campaign to get the 10% cap into law and properly enforced.

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