HC Deb 16 March 1998 vol 308 cc938-9
8. Mr. Randall

What representations he has received concerning the allocation of tickets for the forthcoming World cup in France. [32904]

Mr. Banks

I have received a considerable number of representations about the ticket allocation for England and Scotland supporters for this summer's World cup finals. The method of allocation is a matter for FIFA and the French organisers, not for the Government, although we have been lending our support to the Football Association's endeavours to get additional tickets.

As I said in reply to an earlier question, our advice to supporters is that if they do not have a match ticket they should not travel to France. I hope that Opposition Members will realise that Ministers are setting a good example by staying at home and I hope that everyone will follow that example. I also said that French laws against ticket touting are very tough.

Mr. Randall

I thank the Minister for his reply and his earlier answer about allocation in 2006, when there will be a Conservative Government. To return to 1998, however, are the Government preparing any specific measures to prevent black market tickets falling into the hands of people with convictions for football offences?

Mr. Banks

I have heard about fantasy football. We now have fantasy politics. I should like to see the hon. Gentleman's team.

Everyone is worried about black market tickets. The problem has arisen partly because French supporters have put in for tickets not knowing where their team will be playing. The organisation of the ticket sales means that a large number of French supporters are likely to be in possession of tickets for matches such as England v Romania, which they will not want. They will probably try to sell such tickets. We are still finding out whether it is possible to recycle them so that they can come back on to the market and be sold to supporters of other countries who desperately want to get hold of tickets.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has noticed that, since my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary reminded the courts of the powers available under various legislation to place restriction orders on those so-called fans who have been convicted of football-related offences, there has been a significant increase in the number of such orders. That is the way to proceed. We shall ask our fans to behave responsibly. I look optimistically—perhaps naively, but I hope not—to our fans to behave themselves when they travel. As ever, the message remains, "If you don't have a ticket, please don't travel."

Mr. Corbyn

Will my hon. Friend consider the allocation of tickets for other games, not involving England or Scotland, to supporters of countries such as Jamaica? Tour operators are charging huge prices to take people to northern France and back for one match. Will my hon. Friend look into the excessive profits being made by people who have managed to corner a few tickets?

Mr. Banks

There are no tickets yet—they have not been printed. Many of the advertisements that my hon. Friend has read are based on optimistic assessments by unofficial tour operators and others of the number of tickets they will be able to get. My understanding is that French supporters are still in possession of vouchers only, not tickets. The official tour operators have similar vouchers. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to a scandalous situation. Decent football supporters, seeing advertisements in the newspapers, have a right to feel angry and distressed at the way in which tickets—or the promise of them—are getting on to the market. All sorts of security and financial problems will arise. It is bad enough trying to deal with ticket allocations for England and Scotland. To try to deal with the problem for Jamaica as well would stretch even my ingenuity to breaking point. I take my hon. Friend's point. We shall do all that we can to ensure that decent, ordinary fans get tickets at proper prices.

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