By Doreen Carvajal
International Herald Tribune
PARIS -- With tickets for World Cup games almost as precious as goals,
desperate soccer fans are flocking to the Web to engage in a form of
ticket scalping that comes with the usual huge markups and red-card
threats to eject secondhand buyers from the stadiums.
New technology is a bane and a blessing for frantic international
buyers in the last stage of sales for the remaining 3.1 million
tickets to 64 games that begin in June across Germany.
The prized tickets are trophies in a strict selling and trading
system, developed by Germany's local soccer organizing committee, to
combat advanced online globalization of the black market. The
organizers' weapons are pinhead-size radio frequency microchips
inserted in tickets and old- fashioned shrill threats. Privacy
advocates in Germany are more worried about the chips, raising Big
Brother alarms about their links to an electronic database of personal
information about purchasers.
The rules are that legally purchased tickets, with unique
identification codes contained on individual chips, can be transferred
only among relatives or in connection with hardship cases, not
excluding assorted events of mass destruction like epidemics,
earthquakes, natural catastrophes and acts of war.
But barring plagues and locusts, hope is eternal. Tickets for the
finals are selling for upward of $3,000 on eBay in the United States,
which has emerged as a ticket exchange of last resort because of new
restrictions in Britain, where World Cup ticket scalping is a criminal
Soccer governing bodies like FIFA, which presides over the World Cup,
and UEFA, the European soccer authority, had lobbied hard for
restrictions, arguing that it was a security issue, because violent
fans could buy tickets online through individual sellers and find
themselves seated next to rival supporters.