A FIFA ticket-scalping ring that may have operated at as many as four World Cups has been uncovered, resulting in twelve arrests. The most notable suspect in the case is Ray Whelan, Director of FIFA-contracted MATCH Services, and former agent of legendary English midfielder Bobby Charlton. It is estimated that the scalping ring made as much as $450,000 per match in illegal resale.
MATCH, a subsidiary of Byrom PLC, is the worldwide exclusive rights holder of FIFA corporate hospitality packages. The company has sold over 290,000 packages to 11,400 consumers and operates a global network of agents that promote FIFA’s Hospitality Program. FIFA regulations mandate that unsold corporate tickets must be returned for public sale, however police commissioner Fabio Barucke has stated that both MATCH and FIFA executives were culpable in the distribution ring.
Whelan surrendered himself at a Rio de Janeiro court Tuesday morning, and MATCH has blocked sales to four agents whose names were imprinted on tickets seized by Brazilian officials. The suspects currently under investigation are Atlanta Sportif, Reliance Industries, Jet Set Sports, and Padmodzi [see infographic for further detail]. While Whelan is not a FIFA employee, it is of note that controversial FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s nephew is a MATCH shareholder.
The comprehensive probe—titled Operation Jules Rimet—was named for the twice-stolen trophy that was awarded to Brazil after its third World Cup victory in 1970. Brazilian police have monitored over 50,000 phone calls and seized over 70 corporate hospitality tickets in connection with the case.