World Cup Tickets at $40,000 Each Draw Warning From FIFA

World Cup final tickets are being advertised for more than $40,000 on the secondary market by holders ignoring a threat from world soccer governing body FIFA to void those not resold via the tournament organizer.

The cheapest ticket to the July 13 final at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium on Geneva-based Viagogo -- which describes itself as the world’s largest ticket exchange -- is $5,240 for a seat with a face value of $440. Games such as the final and the tournament opener on June 12 are sold out.

FIFA is the only authorized reseller and doesn’t allow ticket holders to charge a premium, and officials have said they will scrap tickets if they can identify sellers on other platforms. Viagogo said it’s providing a needed service and doesn’t offer World Cup tickets in countries such as the U.K., where resale is illegal.

“We abide by local law and, in the vast majority of territories, it’s legal to sell tickets and that might be for more or less than you originally paid,” Oliver Wheeler, a spokesman for Viagogo, said in a telephone interview.

Resellers, who also include EBay Inc.’s StubHub, are being used by fans who missed out on FIFA’s ticket sales. Soccer’s governing body sold almost 2.6 million tickets for the 64-game tournament before the final tranche was offered on April 15, when 126,837 tickets were snapped up within four hours.

U.S. Sales

U.S. soccer fans are among the biggest buyers on Viagogo, spending an average of $2,800, the company said. Viagogo charges sellers a 10 percent fee and buyers a further 15 percent.

Even if resellers in most cases aren’t breaching the law, buyers are taking a risk by using them, said Zurich-based MATCH Services AG, which was contracted by FIFA to handle sales.

“Anybody selling their tickets on these websites are doing so in breach of the terms and conditions on the tickets and there’s every possibility that, if we can identify the ticket holders, they’ll be invalidated,” MATCH’s head of enforcement Imran Patel said in a phone interview.

Viagogo said it guarantees its tickets and doesn’t pay sellers until after the event to prevent fraud. That’s unlikely to calm a fan who has traveled to Brazil only to find out he won’t gain entry to a World Cup stadium, Patel said.

“That person has still experienced inconvenience and, potentially, financial damage because they’ve paid for a hotel and flights,” he said.

Market Equilibrium

Prices being sought on Viagogo aren’t excessive, Wheeler said, while gougers rarely get what they’re asking for. He cited as an example last year’s Wimbledon tennis final, when Andy Murray became the first Briton since 1936 to win the men’s singles title.

“The most expensive ticket for the Murray final was advertised at 40,000 pounds,” or about $67,000, Wheeler said. “The highest price paid was 4,000 pounds, which for people who love tennis is probably not excessive.”

FIFA has no plans to allow ticket holders to charge more than the face value on its platform, Patel said.

Viagogo has tickets available for sold-out games such as England’s June 14 matchup with Italy in the Amazon capital Manaus for prices ranging from $311 to $3,361.

“We’re providing a service,” Wheeler said. “Can you imagine haggling with someone outside a stadium in Manaus?”

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