Disappointed fans join Moscow ticket scalpers as World Cup final nears

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Across the street from FIFA’s World Cup ticket office in Moscow, a man says he’ll give you a “cheap price” for his ticket to Wednesday’s England-Croatia semi-final - just $1,500, double the official cost of a seat.

He knows he is breaking the law, but the man, from Colombia, says he purchased the ticket expecting his team to get further than the last 16.

Then Colombia lost on penalties to England on Tuesday last week, and now he, along with dozens of other ticket scalpers in the Russian capital, is trying to resell his seat at a profit.

“I don’t need the ticket, that’s why I’m selling,” the man said, declining to give his name, although he still had his World Cup fan ID slung around his neck, meaning he had been vetted and cleared by the Russian authorities.

Four matches remain in the 2018 World Cup and ticket scalping seems to picking up momentum as the July 15 final nears, especially as many top teams - including Germany, Brazil and Argentina - have not done as well as expected.

Earlier this year Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation that banned the resale of World Cup tickets. Offenders can face a fine of up to 25 times the original price of the ticket.

But outside Dobryninskaya metro station, no police officers were visible on the street on Monday afternoon. One police car drove past but did not stop, and an officer in the metro entrance hall said he was not aware that the ticket scalping taking place outside was illegal.

Another scalper, a man with an American accent, said the police had intervened but had not stopped the resale of tickets.

“The police have been down a couple of times,” he said. “They grabbed some people and took them away, but apart from that they don’t really seem to care.”

There have been a handful of reported cases of ticket scalpers being detained in some of the 11 Russian World Cup host cities, but police have not released statistics regarding the number of ticket resale offences recorded so far at the tournament.

Russia’s Interior Ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

Global soccer governing body FIFA condemns scalping and permits ticket transfers only if ticket holder has a “pre-existing relationship” with the person receiving the ticket.

“FIFA regards the illicit sale and distribution of tickets as a serious issue and in cooperation with local authorities, including consumer protection agencies in numerous countries, strives to identify and curb unauthorized ticket sales,” a FIFA spokesman said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.

However, he did not answer questions about the fact the scalping has been taking place near its ticketing center in Moscow.

Another scalper, speaking Russian, told Reuters: “Some people pick up their tickets at the FIFA center, then come straight across the road and sell them,”. He said he did not want give his name since scalping was a crime.

Anyone who hands in their unwanted ticket to FIFA is refunded its original price if the ticket is resold through its official online resale platform.

FIFA said that more than 95,000 tickets had been resold via the platform and that fans could still submit their extra tickets for resale until the final.

“The stadiums would be empty without this (scalping),” said a 28-year-old scalper from Kyrgyzstan.

“Everybody does it and the cops won’t stop you.”

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Jack Stubbs; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky