Touts selling football tickets on websites will be liable for a £5,000 fine under new legislation passed yesterday. The Violent Crime Reduction Act outlaws the internet sale of the tickets.
"The transfer of touting from the street corner to the internet rendered the original legislation out of date," said Lord Pendry, a peer who backed the new law. "These new measures are the most stringent laws against ticket touting anywhere in the world. The key now is for football and the enforcement authorities to work together to put them into practice and protect football and its fans from touting."
The law allows people to buy tickets for friends as long as the person to whom the tickets will be sold are known to them and that all transactions are at face value.
The law is aimed both at making tickets available to fans at affordable prices, and at combating hooliganism. The measures are aimed to ensure that segregation between fans at matches is effective as an anti-hooliganism measure.
Unofficial agencies have sprung up making large numbers of tickets available for prices of up to 10 times face value. The agencies have been widely blamed for increasing the numbers of people attending on corporate packages, rather than grass roots fans.
The law also introduces penalties for websites which carry advertisement for agencies selling unofficial tickets, which has become a criminal offence.
Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League said that the move would benefit fans. "Clubs work extremely hard to offer a range of ticket prices that are affordable and accessible. However, this market has been distorted in recent years by the rise of the internet tout," he said. "The authorities can take appropriate and meaningful action against online touts and prevent them making huge sums of money through this illicit trade."
The law applies to people selling tickets on their own specially set up websites, and also on third party websites such as eBay.
Premier League lawyers are said to have written to 300 agencies in the UK and abroad warning them of the new law.
Two other important bills also received Royal Assent yesterday: the Police and Justice Act 2006 was passed which, among other measures, raises the maximum penalties for computer hacking and making clear that launching a denial of service attack is an offence; and the Fraud Act 2006 was passed, tidying the patchwork of statutory fraud laws that previously existed in England and Wales.