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November 2003
Ticket Touts

Hearts Triumph











TOUT. Possibly the worst four-letter word in the football fan's lexicon. And these leeches have been out in force for Scotland's double-header with Holland, ripping-off those gullible enough to meet their vastly inflated prices for match tickets and in the process denying genuine Scotland supporters the opportunity to see the biggest match to be played at Hampden since England in 1999.

These days the touts are slightly more sophisticated than of old. You're more likely to find them lurking on auction sites such as eBay than standing outside the ground. Their methods may change but their motives remain the same - to make a quick financial killing while depriving REAL supporters from getting to the game.

Scottishleague.net tracked down a few of the eBay touts and asked them:"Do you feel good about yourself touting tickets on eBay when thousands of genuine fans can't get to the game?" And just in case they wouldn't respond to that we also asked: "Would you agree that these are the actions of low-life scum?"

Their answers are illuminating.

'PD' said he was selling them on behalf of a fan who hadn't missed a match for years but who by coincidence was "emigrating to South Africa that weekend." Of course a real fan would either not bother buying tickets for a game he wasn't going to or would pass them on at face value. 'PD' goes on to say: "I feel fine selling the tickets, in fact I am going to make some money, but that will compensate for me not being able to go to the game."

An amazing 'justification' which boils down to this; "I can't make the game so I'm going to fleece my fellow Scotland fans who can."

'D McK' says:"You couldn't be that much of a supporter if you havent got a ticket as if you were you would be in the travel club. If you were a good supporter you would have queued from 3am to get a ticket so just remember if you were a genuine supporter you would have had a ticket."

Now of course THOUSANDS of fans DID queue for tickets at Safeway stores all over Scotland and came away empty-handed thanks to the actions of characters like this who bought tickets for no reason other than to sell them on at a profit. If you were one of the frustrated fans who spent hours queuing unsuccessfully for a ticket you may take exception to being told you're not a genuine supporter in the eyes of this scumbag.

Interesting to note that he appears to think membership of the Scotland Travel Club is a good enough reason to rip-off fans. Unlike 'PD' his justification seems to be this: "I go to all the games so I'm entitled to rip off my fellow Scotland fans."

We'll see if the SFA agree. Their security department now has his name and e-mail address.

However, 'D McK' comes clean in the end; "The reason I'm selling the tickets is because I'm going to Holland and the money would come in handy."

However neither of these is as good as the charitable 'SB' who is only touting out of the goodness of his heart: "Actually I live in Holland and I am trying to do some people a favour by offering them tickets at £75 each - the same price that I paid for them. I have been buying tickets at that price in Holland because I realised that so many Scottish fans, myself included. had no chance of purchasing tickets in Scotland. So think again before you call me scum, I'm Scottish and proud."

This guy is brilliant. He buys tickets in Holland (for the Dutch section at Hampden) and sells them on to Scotland fans but without telling them that whoever gets the tickets will end up beside thousands of Dutch supporters.

Even if he did buy them at that price in Holland he could have sold them on ebay by specifying the price and allowing fans the opportunity to use ebay's 'buy it now' option.

Of course he didn't. He was, like the others, out to rip off the fans of whom, incidentally he claims to be one. "Were you in Germany, Iceland, the Faroe Isles? I was" he says, offering the same justification as above: " I go to games therefore I'm entitled to rip you off."

The likes of those above would do well to visit sites like the Tartan Army Message Board or Scottishfitba.net where fans who genuinely can't make the game will trade tickets at face value.

But perhaps the stupidest of the touts is the one who goes by the name of 'crazymentalmince' who responded to our questions with a succinct reply of "suck ma fanny."

At least this charming gentleman spared us crocodile tears about it being the first game he'd missed since the Wembley Wizards of 1928 or tales of how he'd crawled on his hands and knees across five continents to get to the match in Estonia only to find the locals hadn't turned up. But unlike the others he was stupid enough to say what seat numbers and which part of the ground the tickets were for.

This information too is now in the hands of the SFA's security department.

Oh, and if any of the above are reading this and don't recognise themselves, that's because in every single case we have had to tidy up their spelling, punctuation and grammar.

So what can be done about the touts? eBay are breaching their own regulations in allowing these auctions as football tickets are specifically banned from going on sale there. One or two bright sparks have sought to get round this by offering pens and envelopes for sale with "free" tickets attached.

It doesn't matter. eBay could, if they wished, easily withdraw these auctions. It's clear that the sellers aren't regulars there as most have only registered within the past two weeks and a search for 'Scotland V Holland' produced over 70 matches, just one of which wasn't for tickets.

It's entirely up to them. It's their reputation that's at stake.

Some fans have decided to give the touts a taste of their own medicine by entering ludicrous bids of up to £1 million for tickets, thus ensuring their 'bid' will always be top of the pile come the end of the auction.

The SFA will take action against touts and anyone who knows of any abuses whether of Scotland Travel Club membership or anything else should contact them directly just as we have done.

Of course the ultimate blow to touts is to refuse to have anything to do with them. As long as fans are prepared to pay outrageous prices touting will be rife. But remember this: tickets worth hundreds five minutes before a game are worthless afterwards. In 1981 the FA tried to ban Scotland supporters from Wembley. The touts thought they'd make a killing. The ban was a flop and the touts didn't make a penny. The Tartan Army refused to be conned and as the minutes ticked away to kick-off the amount asked for tickets dropped sharply so that with five minutes to go they were being sold for face value or less.

Not an ideal solution but one that might just send the touts homewards to think again.


Hearts 1-0 victory in Bordeaux in the first leg of their UEFA Cup tie was the Edinburgh club's best away result in Europe since their triumph in Vienna fifteen years ago at least and possibly their best ever on foreign soil. Not since the days of Aberdeen and Dundee United at their peak has a non-Old Firm team recorded such a remarkable result.

And remarkable it was. Forget the fact that Bordeaux are struggling in France. The French League is one of the strongest in Europe and just days before losing to Hearts, Bordeaux beat high-flying Marseilles.

Of course the job isn't over yet but no Scottish team has ever lost a European tie after winning the first leg away. Hearts are in a good position to become the first Scottish team outside the Old Firm to win two European ties since Aberdeen seven years ago (and their opposition was a lot easier than Hearts have faced this term) and the first to reach the third round of the UEFA Cup since the Jambos themselves marched to the last eight back in 1989.

Think about that for a moment. The last time any Scottish club other than the big two progressed beyond the second round of any European tournament was in the days when the Communist Party still ruled the Soviet Union, Thatcher was in Downing Street, Mandela in jail and Jive Bunny in the charts!

Of course it's a measure of the decline of Scottish football that what was once the norm is now, even only in prospect, a cause for celebration. Nevertheless this result is the latest in a series of improved performances from our clubs in Europe and is further proof that Scotland appears to be on the march back to - if not glory - at least respectability.

Alas the same cannot be said domestically. This same Hearts team have been beaten 4-0 at home by Rangers and thrashed 5-0 at Parkhead. If that is the best that the 'third force' can manage, what hope for the rest?

Compared to the same stage last season there is little evidence to suggest that the gap between the Old Firm and the others has narrowed at all. This time last year Celtic had been beaten by Motherwell. This time around they are actually two points to the good, having dropped points only at Dunfermline in a 0-0 draw on the opening day of the season.

In 2002-03 Rangers drew at Kilmarnock in their first match then beat every other non-OF team they faced in their first twelve matches. This season they have drawn at Livingston and Motherwell so are only one point worse off.

It looks like it will be next season at least before the effects of the new financial realism kick in. Then, maybe, even if the Glasgow clubs will still dominate the scene, we just might get a sustained challenge to their hegemony for the first time since the inception of the SPL.

Elsewhere in the SPL, Partick Thistle have made a dreadful start and if they don't start picking up points soon could well be effectively relegated by the New Year.

In the lower leagues both Morton and Stirling Albion are attempting to impersonate the Old Firm by establishing big leads in the 2nd and 3rd divisions respectively. But the closest fought division in Scotland this season is the 1st.

With a third of the season gone just five points separates six sides at the top of the table. Queen of the South are the surprise leaders, closely followed by St Johnstone, Falkirk, Inverness Caley Thistle, Ross County then Clyde.

Of these only St Johnstone have an SPL-compliant ground at the moment though both Falkirk and Clyde should be able to meet the deadline if they were to look as though they could win promotion. But as the rules stand neither of the Highland teams nor QOS would be eligible to go up.

We've said it before and make no apology for saying it again. For the health of Scottish football it is imperative that there is promotion and relegation between the SPL and the 1st Division.

What a pity then to find that two clubs whose grounds do meet the SPL criteria - St Mirren and Raith Rovers - find themselves involved at the wrong end of the table, fighting relegation alongside Ayr and Brechin - our pre-season tips for the drop.

There's still time for the sides from Paisley and Kirkcaldy to make a move up the table but it doesn't look likely at this stage.

But hanging over everything is the huge debt owed by our clubs. Rangers are in hock to the tune of nearly £70M and have sold off their most valuable players. And quite how Dundee can afford to pay the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli while drawing gates of under 7,000 is open to question. Dunfermline have had difficulty in paying win bonuses - though the unkind might suggest that this isn't a problem normally associated with the Pars!

Motherwell remain in administration, Kilmarnock's incoming Chairman is looking to recoup his losses and get out and Hibs have forced their manager to take a pay cut.

Most of the rest have financial problems too. Partick Thistle are the only team without money worries. They are also, at the time of writing, the only SPL team without a win. Sadly, these circumstances are not unrelated. Thistle have taken the bold step of paying players only what they can afford. Regrettably for us all it doesn't look like a strategy that can succeed.


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