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Saturday, October 9, 1999 Published at 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK

UK: Wales

Chiefs deny responsibility for Cup ticket blunders

Fans were delighted when the extra tickets went on sale

Rugby World Cup chiefs have refused to accept responsibility for the ticketing fiasco which blighted the opening week of the tournament.

International Rugby Board chairman and World Cup director Vernon Pugh rubbished speculation that tickets for the final at the Millennium Stadium had gone missing.

BBC Wales' Jon Manel reports on the forgotten tickets
Mr Pugh said delays to the completion of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff were central to the problems, but refused to point the finger directly at the WRU.

He said all tickets for the final had been identified.

"If we look for the source of the difficulties it is almost certainly related to the fact that Wales built a brand new stadium which should have been functioning by January this year.

"The first match should have been Samoa in January and the Five Nations matches should have been held there.

"The six-month delay meant it was difficult to resolve the teething problems. The difficulties have been organisational and administrative."

[ image: Fans snapped up the unsold seats]
Fans snapped up the unsold seats
The Welsh Rugby Union suspended its ticket manager and his deputy after blunders over ticketing at matches.

Manager Richard Wright was told to stay away from the WRU offices until a full investigation into the problems had been completed.

Every match at the new £126m stadium has been plagued with ticketing problems.

Two hundred seats were left unsold for the opening game of the Rugby World Cup while other seats were sold twice.

The WRU said both men were suspended pending investigations and said disciplinary proceedings may follow.

Stadium officials held urgent talks with computer experts after discovering, only minutes before Friday's opening ceremony, that one block of seats was completely empty.

The 200 unsold tickets were snapped up by fans only 20 minutes before the game started.

"It smacks of amateurism," MP Kim Howells on WRU's handling of tickets
In cases where two tickets had been sold for the same seat, fans had to be moved to other parts of the stadium.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kim Howells, who was also at the match, said he was particularly concerned at the duplication of tickets.

"I certainly intend to open discussions with the International Rugby Board and the Welsh Rugby Union to find out exactly what happened," he said.

"There is a serious problem here in division of management. There are too many managers, the lines have got confused. In a sense it smacks of a kind of amateurism.

"I'm very concerned about this double booking. If people pay £45 or £60 for a ticket and someone's already in the seat there's nothing that they can do.

"It's a pretty rum state of affairs. It makes me sick to my stomach to see tickets being sold for those prices."

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