Julian Diaz-Rainey of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, who specialises in resolving disputes and in regulatory compliance in sport, said the injunction issued by the High Court earlier this week was a clear sign that the UK judiciary will support event organisers and venue owners in making it harder for ticket touts to operate successfully on the fringes of major events.
The ticket tout injunction, which the Jockey Club had applied for ahead of the start of the racing season at Cheltenham on Saturday, is the first such injunction granted to a racecourse in the UK.
Pinsent Masons, which acted for the Jockey Club in the case, has previously acted for a Premier League football club in England in obtaining an injunction against named individuals and 'persons unknown' in response to parkour stunts being performed on their premises.
The injunction issued in this latest case represents a pre-emptive and direct attempt to clampdown on 'persons unknown' who engage in ticket touting ahead of major race meets at Cheltenham, and is an example of action other event organisers and venue operators could look to take too, lawyers at the firm said, stressing that this case goes a step further in advancing an injunction against persons unknown giving considerably more latitude than previous cases.
"Ticket touting is a scourge of many sports, including football, rugby and athletics, and is also extremely prevalent in the wider entertainment arena, such as at music festivals," Diaz-Rainey said. "This ruling therefore has the potential to have major repercussions for touts operating across the full spectrum of popular events as it shows the increasing appetite within the sports and entertainment sectors to tackle the issue."
Sports law, major events and commercial rights specialist Trevor Watkins also of Pinsent Masons said: "This case will give event organisers and venue operators increased confidence in the ability to crack down on touts on their premises. We expect it will lead to greater attention being placed on other affected parties, in particular local authorities who own neighbouring land, and the steps they can take to eradicate the problem."
Watkins said ticket touting has "a significant economic and reputational impact" on the organisers of major events and venue operators. According to the Jockey Club, more than 150 touts operated at the Cheltenham festival in March. It has also said that it loses out on approximately £1 million each year at racecourses it operates as a result of ticket touting.
"The statistics for racing alone are startling and serve to highlight the economic impact of ticket touting," Watkins said. "On the reputation front, anyone who has the pleasure of attending a major event, be that a Champions League match at a football ground in England, rugby international, or music festival, will be only too aware of the swarm of touts on or near the premises seeking to offload tickets to unsuspecting individuals who may later discover that the tickets they have bought are forged or invalid. This can detract from the overall customer experience that event organisers and venue operators work so hard to deliver."
Diaz-Rainey said the Jockey Club had taken "an important step" in moving to eliminate ticket touts from its premises at Cheltenham.
"Touting is an aggressive and unpleasant activity on race days, which is controlled in many cases by organised crime," he said. "It creates an unpleasant atmosphere for racegoers who come to enjoy a family day out and makes it harder for those who genuinely enjoy the sport to buy tickets on issue, and at a fair price. The decision shows that the courts will not be held back from upholding the rights of innocent parties such as the Jockey Club simply because the identity of the wrongdoers is not known."