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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 14:29 GMT

UK: Scotland

Legal opinion on tickets wrangle

Hampden tickets lie at the heart of the row

A judge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh has said Glasgow City Council overstepped its authority in threatening to withold tickets from its staff.

Prof Joe Thomson gives his opinion on the legal wrangle
The council is refusing to give tickets to 215 staff who used internal phone lines to order them and says the tickets will be given to the Scottish Football Association for redistribution.

News Online Scotland asked Professor Joe Thomson, Regius Professor of Law at Glasgow University, to explain the legal issues.

Q: What, in simple terms, constitutes a contract?

A: "The first thing is to ascertain if there was a contract.

"When the tickets were advertised for sale via the hotline, that constitutes an invitation to treat.

"When you call the hotline, you make an offer - an offer the seller is entitled not to accept without incurring any liability.

"Since there were millions of callers and only a few thousand tickets, there were many cases where the offer was not accepted.

"If the seller accepts the offer, there is then a binding contract of sale.

"Arguably, the employees would be entitled to sue the council for performance of the contract - eg, delivery of the ticket."

Q: What about the question of theft of the tickets?

A: "There is no concept of theft unless ownwership has passsed.

"What is not clear from this case is whether a specific ticket number was issued to the purchaser.

"Where there is a mass of tickets being sold, if the number is identified at that stage, then ownership could pass.

"Until the ticket, or ticket number is issued, the goods are 'unascertained' and ownership would not be judged to have passed."

Q: Is the question of use of the internal phone lines relevant?

A: "If using the internal phone lines constitutes a misuse of council time, then that is a disciplinary matter vis-a-vis the employer and employee.

"It has nothing to do with the contract of sale.

"Assuming the people taking the calls did not know that they were being made internally, then they would be acting within the scope of their authority to sell the tickets."

Q: What if the sales staff knew that they were selling to their friends, or sold tickets on the internal lines when the external switchboard was down?

A: "If the people taking the calls were aware that they were being made on internal lines then they would not be selling them on a 'first come-first served' basis.

"As such, they could be acting outwith the scope of their authority as agents for the ticket sellers."

Q: So a lot rests on the specific circumstances of the case?

A: "A lot could depend on the conditions of sale of the tickets. For example, it is common where you are selling tickets for a performance like an opera or a ballet to have a condition that the seller can lawfully decide not to issue the ticket.

"This is designed to protect organisers where an event or a show has to be cancelled.

"There will be no legal liability if they decide not to issue the tickets, in the same way that, if a performance is cancelled, you can't then sue the company."

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