In proceedings brought by the Rugby Football Union, ticket site Viagogo has been ordered to disclose the names and addresses of all using its site to sell tickets for the recent Home Internationals. The RFU’s case underlines the potential dangers of passing tickets to third parties without official authorisation, reports Nick Johnson.
Topic: Ambush marketing
Who: Rugby Football Union, Viagogo
When: 21 March 2011
Law stated as at: 5 May 2011
The Rugby Football Union obtained judgment in the High Court for a Norwich Pharmacal order against online ticket exchange Viagogo. The order sought required Viagogo to disclose details of those selling tickets on Viagogo for various international matches hosted at Twickenham in 2010 and 2011, as well as certain details of the tickets offered for sale.
Why this matters:
The case (The Rugby Football Union v Viagogo Limited  EWHC 764 (QB)) does not directly related to marketing or promotional activity. But the court’s decision is potentially relevant to the issue of whether event tickets can lawfully be offered as promotion prizes, and as to the enforceability of ticket terms and conditions prohibiting ambush marketing activity within an event venue.
Tickets for major events are typically sold subject to terms and conditions. These may amongst other things limit the ticket’s transferability, prohibit use of the ticket for any commercial purpose (including as a promotion prize) and prohibit the holder from carrying out certain activities at the venue that promote non-sponsor brands.
However, it is often the case that the holder of an event ticket was not the original purchaser. With no privity of contract between ticket holder and event organiser, this begs the question of whether the ticket’s terms and conditions ultimately carry any legal weight.
The RFU v Viagogo case required the court to look at this enforceability issue. While the judge was not required to reach a final determination in assessing whether to grant the disclosure order sought, he needed to decide whether the RFU had at least an arguable case that:
– ticket holders would be committing the tort of trespass by attending in circumstances where the ticket terms and conditions had been breached; and
– in those circumstances, those who supplied the tickets to the final ticket holders would commit the tort of conversion and may be joint tortfeasors in their trespass.
Based on the facts in this case, it was held that these categories of wrongdoing were at least arguable.
This is likely to strengthen the hand of event organisers generally in seeking interim court injunctions to prevent non-sponsor brands from offering tickets as prizes in promotions or encouraging fans to take branded items into stadia.
It is worth noting also that the London 2012 Olympics and a wide class of domestic and international football matches additionally benefit from statutory restrictions on ticket usage. The ticket touting offences under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 (see also the Ticket Touting (Designation of Football Matches) Order 2007) and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 2006 are arguably broad enough to catch the unauthorised use of tickets as prizes.