The fakes and fraudsters at the Commonwealth Games
By Stuart Fuller Director of Commercial Operations at NetNames, the online brand protection specialist
Glasgow has thrown up its arms and welcomed the Commonwealth Nations to take part in the largest ever sporting event Scotland has seen. The twentieth Commonwealth Games has seen 70 nations and 4,084 athletes take part in 261 events over 11 days. Whilst not on the same scale as the FIFA World Cup or the Summer Olympic Games, it is a global event and is being watched by millions around the world, as well as hundreds of thousands who have been lucky enough to obtain tickets.
But as we have seen with recent sporting events, where there is a crowd, there is an opportunity for criminals to make a fast buck. Counterfeit goods and fake tickets will never be far from the good-news stories. However, the authorities have looked at the lessons from other events, especially the London Olympics and have put a number of measures already in place.
Last month the Lord Advocate warned that fraudsters looking to cash in on the Commonwealth Games will be hit with a “range of powerful laws” which could see them sent to prison. He said that anyone looking to sell items under the Commonwealth Games banner – or those trying to sell tickets illegally – could be given custodial sentences of up to five years. Mr Mulholland said: “Legitimate businesses in Scotland and their staff who have worked hard to make the games a success rightly stand to reap huge benefits.”
Mr Mulholland added: “Anyone who attempts to disrupt the Games by operating con schemes or committing public disorder crimes should also be aware that the lowest level they will be prosecuted at is the Sheriff Court, where they could face sentences of up to five years in jail and an unlimited fine.”
He also revealed those found guilty of crimes such as counterfeiting and ticket-touting can also be prosecuted using proceeds of crime legislation because they are deemed to be “lifestyle offences”.
In the run up to the 2012 London Olympic Games, a specialist police unit, known as Operation Podium, was set up to great effect. In the 18 months before the Games began, the team shut down a number of high-profile websites that had been offering fake tickets. Criminal charges were imposed on the men behind the scams. With events such as the Cycling or Athletics oversubscribed once again in Glasgow, many fans will be forced onto the secondary market, creating favourable conditions for fraudsters, especially those who have set up well-designed websites, or whose sites ranked highly on search engines or mimicked the official website. One high-profile case involved the website in 2012 allegedly defrauded more than 400 people out of €500,000 in just five weeks. The site’s owner was sentenced to four years in prison in 2011, underlining the tough stance taken against the fraudsters.
In addition, the ticketing team behind the London Olympics, headed by Paul Williamson, took the unusual step of contacting the more commonly known ticket touts in the UK. The team made it clear that the touts’ presence would be very unwelcome at any Olympic events and that the full force of the law and tax authorities would be used if anyone was found plying their trade during the Games. In total, 220 arrests were made during the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, with an almost zero tolerance approach taken that certainly deterred many from chancing their arm.
Whilst millions of us were talking about the action on the pitch in Brazil over the past few weeks, a number of incidents involving fake tickets did hit the media. Over 50 fans were turned away from the opening game between Brazil versus Croatia with tickets that looked identical to the real things, only discoverable when the tickets were scanned. In addition, one of the directors of FIFA’s official ticketing and hospitality company, MATCH, was arrested in Rio under suspicion of being behind an illegal ticketing resale ring.
Such measures are still lacking from our regular sporting events, such as Premier League football, which encourages the criminals to chance their arm in the major events. The authorities will be doing everything to ensure the spectators who are descending on Glasgow are not exposed to any of these criminals. The threat of significant custodial sentences for those who are found guilty of counterfeiting and fraud will hopefully be enough of a deterrent
In addition to those who will try to profit from the games, the organisers will also be on the look-out for guerrilla marketing tactics by organisations who are not official commercial partners. Companies such as Virgin Media, BP and Emirates will have paid significant sums of money to have their brand in the eyes of the world and will not want to see their competitors grab the limelight or damage their brand value in any way.
If you are planning on attending the festival of sport in Glasgow this summer or future sporting events, then follow NetNames three steps plan to ensure the only disappointment you experience is seeing our athletics fail to bring home the gold.
- If you are offered tickets online you can check the validity of the website by going to the official 2014 Ticket website where they have a useful URL checker (http://www.glasgow2014.com/your-games/tickets/ticketing-website-checker); Do not be tempted to buy tickets from anyone outside venues. You could lose your money AND have the tickets confiscated;
- Official merchandise will only be sold through authorised resellers at the venues or in Glasgow City Centre. Do not be tempted to buy items from vendors in the street – they are at best low-quality unofficial goods, at worst stolen;
- Be wary of people outside venues giving you free items to wear or display, such as flags. These could contain logos of unauthorised partners and you may be unwittingly part of an attempted guerrilla marketing ploy. You may be refused access to the events;