England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) has defended its ticketing model and hit out at the resale market after Viagogo claimed that it is providing a necessary service by offering the public Six Nations tickets that would otherwise be unavailable.

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper found more than 1,100 tickets available on Viagogo for the rugby union tournament, which features the national teams of England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.

Some of the tickets were for England home matches, which are hosted by the RFU at Twickenham (pictured). This is despite the governing body’s terms and conditions stating that reselling tickets on secondary websites is prohibited.

“The reason nobody can get a Six Nations ticket from the box office is because the RFU doesn’t make tickets available to the general public,” a Viagogo spokesperson told TheTicketingBusiness.com. “Thankfully tickets to every game are available on Viagogo.”

Viagogo added to TheTicketingBusiness in a later statement: “RFU members should have the right to buy and resell tickets just like anyone else. It’s unfortunate that the RFU would punish the people who have supported the sport the most.

“Members, debenture holders, season pass holders and the general public have the legal right to do whatever they want with their own property. It is well-known that the RFU allocates a great number of ‘VIP Hospitality’ tickets to well-connected VIPS and elites, by selling them through England Rugby Travel, their affiliated travel company.

“Insiders estimate that at least 3,000-4,000 tickets are sold per game through this VIP sales channel, with an average sale price of £1,000 per ticket. On Viagogo, the average sale price of all RFU tickets for England matches is £212. It is clear that ticket sellers on our website are offering greater access and better pricing to the general public.”

However, an RFU spokesperson responded to Viagogo by telling TheTicketingBusiness.com that, “where tickets are resold on secondary market websites – especially at inflated prices – it is not just the genuine fans, but the wider game, which suffers”.

The governing body added: “The RFU prides itself on its unique model of rewarding those involved in rugby with access to international match tickets. Over 50 per cent of tickets to England games at Twickenham are made available to our clubs.

“The remainder are distributed to a wide range of rugby stakeholders, including a significant number being sold to our membership, the England Rugby Club, which, as with our clubs, is open to all to join. We invest all profits generated by ticket sales, back into rugby in England.

“The average price of an England rugby international ticket listed on Viagogo is more than double the average face value of the ticket.

“The RFU provides the means for ticket holders to resell tickets through an online ticket exchange for clubs and via the ticket office at Twickenham Stadium, which allows tickets to be resold to other fans at face value. The use of secondary market websites to resell tickets is prohibited by the RFU’s ticket terms and conditions and any ticket holder known to have breached the terms and conditions will be refused entry.

“England Rugby Hospitality is the official source of experiencing hospitality at Twickenham. A wide range of options are available, catering for all needs, with entry level packages starting at £299 per person. England Rugby Hospitality packages represent approximately 10% of the total tickets sold on a match day.”

The RFU sanctioned 57 local rugby clubs over tickets that were posted on resale websites in 2018 alone, and the governing body has warned that those who are flouting the rules could lose their allocations for future international fixtures.

One of the clubs the Guardian names is Rosslyn Park in south-west London. The club told the newspaper that an internal investigation had revealed the tickets in question were issued to one of its corporate sponsors.

“Club sponsors, along with members of Rosslyn Park, are reminded annually of the RFU and club’s policy on the resale of international tickets,” a spokesman for the club said. “The corporate sponsor is now taking internal disciplinary action with the individual concerned.”

An RFU spokesperson said: “If there is a suspicion that tickets are misused, this will initially be examined by the RFU. The club will be contacted to obtain an explanation, and the RFU will then decide on an appropriate sanction, if applicable, against set guidelines. This can result in a club losing some or all of its ticket allocation in subsequent seasons.”

Image: Diliff