English Premier League football club Arsenal has launched an investigation into how thousands of Cologne supporters obtained tickets for last week’s Uefa Europa League match that was forced to kick off an hour late.
An estimated 20,000 Cologne fans were in London prior to the match, despite the German Bundesliga club having an allocation of just 2,900 tickets.
Thousands of ticketless supporters descended on the stadium in the lead-up to the match and, according to the BBC, there were a number of scuffles between fans and stewards once the gates to the venue were opened.
Thousands of Cologne fans reportedly accessed the home sections at the Emirates Stadium, causing a security risk.
Cologne fans told the Guardian newspaper that they were able to purchase tickets in the home end through Craigslist, independent ticket touts and websites such as Viagogo and Ticketbis, owned by StubHub.
One Cologne fan said he got his tickets on Craigslist from a seller who had several seats to list, according to the Guardian: “I got a phone number and messaged with that guy via WhatsApp,” he said. “It was £100 for a seat near the away block of the Cologne supporters.
“He sent me my ticket as a PDF via email and I paid him via PayPal. I also gave out his number to a couple of fans who were looking for tickets as well so I guess he had plenty to sell.”
In addition, the fan said that a few of his friends had picked up tickets bearing the names of Arsenal members in the reception of the Thistle Hotel in Kensington Gardens. “These were real plastic permanent tickets with a name on them. They made the deal via Craigslist, paid upfront and had the tickets sent to their hotel in London. After the game, they had to return the permanent tickets to the hotel reception until midnight,” he said.
There is also evidence that Viagogo and Ticketbis were listing seats, despite the laws in place that prevent football tickets being resold.
A statement from Arsenal following the game read: “We worked in full consultation with police and Uefa officials on the night and in advance of the game and had taken extensive steps in advance to prevent tickets being sold to visiting supporters.
“This included a number of measures including ensuring no tickets were sold via general sale and that no red memberships purchased after the draw were able to be used to get tickets in the home end for this match. We also worked with our colleagues at Cologne to stop supporters travelling without match tickets.
“The 3,000 tickets issued to Cologne fans was in line with competition rules but it is clear many more visiting fans arrived, causing significant congestion and disturbance outside the stadium before kick-off. Many tickets were sold through touts and this is very disappointing.
“We have launched a full review into the circumstances surrounding the game and will ensure any lessons that can be learned are used in the future.”