[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 25 June 2006, 08:04 GMT 09:04 UK
Any spare tickets for the England game?
By Claire Heald
BBC News, Stuttgart

The number one complaint at the World Cup is from fans that cannot get a ticket. Meanwhile, the trade on the black market soars.

So how much will a ticket to the round-two match set England supporters back?

Mark, left, and James Fortnum
Mark and James refused a tout's 1,000 euros asking price

The serious business end of the World Cup has arrived with the start of the knockout stages.

And in the ticket tout market, serious business is being dealt on the streets of Stuttgart.

Time to hide the notebook and get a few straight answers from touts.

How much would a ticket to the Ecuador game cost an England fan?

Well organised

Stuttgart station is half a mile from the square where fans watch the matches.

The touts are not hard to spot here.

The big disgrace is that the tickets made available to the sponsors, are not being used by them
James Fortnum

Like every city or stadium, they skulk around not far from the entrance.

England fans short of a ticket can find them, should they so desire.

There is short shrift for journalists: "I'll talk to you mate when 'Big Ears' here as gone," one tells a customer as he tries to cut a deal.

They are organised - handing over a home-made business card as they quote me a price.

And that price is 550 for one ticket.

At the stadium, fans say it is a 800 opening gambit down to 400 for the hard barterer.

At the station, there is no quick look allowed to gauge if it is real or fake.

Prices will rise tomorrow during the day, perhaps falling again very close to kick-off.

And were England playing a better-ranked team, "the asking" would start from a higher base figure.

Sponsors' allocation

Many of these black market tickets came from the 12 tournament sponsors or from hospitality packages - they are named on the tickets.

Some are sourced from countries' football associations. And spares are being traded between fans themselves.

Of all the supply and demand scenarios in economics, it is hard to imagine a more skewed one than an England fan and a World Cup ticket.

World Cup ticket
It is little green cards like these that the crowds are after

The team has the strongest travelling support here. But like every other team, the Football Association receives from Fifa 8% of the saleable tickets for England's matches.

At Sunday's fixture, that is 4,200 seats in the stadium.

It includes an extra 580 that went on sale to members of the FA supporters group Englandfans on Friday.

Some 80% of its 25,000 members applied for tickets to the World Cup.

Of the allocation, 70% went to fans with 14 'caps', or England matches attended. The rest went out in the FA ballot.

In Cologne, an estimated 80,000 fans arrived to cheer on England and a similar figure is expected in Stuttgart.

Little wonder then that the free market has swung into action.

"The big disgrace is that the tickets made available to the sponsors, are not being used by them and are on the black market," says England fan James Fortnum.

"The England fans set the price. If they said I'm not going to pay over 200, what would the touts do? But as the largest travelling support, we are prime targets."

He and nephew Mark, 38, paid 800 each on "an official tout site" to watch England v Sweden in Cologne.

Like so many fans here, they tell a shady story of phoning mobile numbers, then travelling to meet a man in a hotel or bar to collect the tickets.

They are looking for seats for Sunday's match and were offered them by a German man.

But their offer of "twice the 45 euros (31)" face value was nothing against the 1,000 euros he wanted.

'Automatic right'

All ticket-less fans here complain that too many tickets were granted to sponsors and hospitality companies.

Destined to be unused by sponsors at the turnstile, the tickets went straight to the black market, via the lining of tout's pockets.

We're not surprised at the level of the black market."
Kevin Miles, Football Supporters Federation

"I hate the touts and I hate the corporate people even more," says Kevin Brookes, arriving at the station in Stuttgart.

"But you have to deal with them if you want to go in."

He paid 750 euros for England v Sweden in Cologne after failing to get tickets in the ballot.

Ticket touting is not illegal in Germany.

But the trade is something the Football Supporters Federation naturally wants to see extinguished.

It wants action before South Africa 2010, although the distance and cost of travel mean demand is likely to be lower in four years' time.

"Every ticket on the black market is one that Fifa supplied at face value to someone who is more interested in making money than watching the game," says the FSF's head, Kevin Miles.

"We're not surprised at the level of the black market."

The group has warned fans about forgeries being sold and set up a petition to lobby Fifa.

He feels there does not have to be an automatic right to thousands of tickets for sponsors - they gain enough from the tournament's publicity as it is.

'Pathetically grateful'

In a bar near the central fan fest square, Andrew Norfolk, his nephew Tom Fehler, and a friend, Nick Bellamy, are nursing a beer after shelling out 600 euros each for touted tickets.

Tom Fehler, Nick Bellamy, Andrew Norfolk
Tom, Nick and Andrew each paid 600 euros for tickets

They were sourced originally from the German Football Federation and the trio say they were being sold off in lots of 10.

"So many people here have come without tickets, it shows the bottom line is you don't want to stop touts because it's the only way we can get in.

"We are pathetically grateful that we have spent 1,800 euros on tickets that originally cost 56 euros.

"I'm willing to do it, but it's not the way it should be, it's unjustified."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific