Online World Cup scalpers meet high-tech resistance

By Doreen Carvajal International Herald Tribune

PARIS -- With tickets for World Cup games almost as precious as goals, desperate soccer fans are flocking to the Web to engage in a form of ticket scalping that comes with the usual huge markups and red-card threats to eject secondhand buyers from the stadiums. New technology is a bane and a blessing for frantic international buyers in the last stage of sales for the remaining 3.1 million tickets to 64 games that begin in June across Germany. The prized tickets are trophies in a strict selling and trading system, developed by Germany's local soccer organizing committee, to combat advanced online globalization of the black market. The organizers' weapons are pinhead-size radio frequency microchips inserted in tickets and old- fashioned shrill threats. Privacy advocates in Germany are more worried about the chips, raising Big Brother alarms about their links to an electronic database of personal information about purchasers. The rules are that legally purchased tickets, with unique identification codes contained on individual chips, can be transferred only among relatives or in connection with hardship cases, not excluding assorted events of mass destruction like epidemics, earthquakes, natural catastrophes and acts of war. But barring plagues and locusts, hope is eternal. Tickets for the finals are selling for upward of $3,000 on eBay in the United States, which has emerged as a ticket exchange of last resort because of new restrictions in Britain, where World Cup ticket scalping is a criminal offense. Soccer governing bodies like FIFA, which presides over the World Cup, and UEFA, the European soccer authority, had lobbied hard for restrictions, arguing that it was a security issue, because violent fans could buy tickets online through individual sellers and find themselves seated next to rival supporters.

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