KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: The World Cup tickets scandal has descended into further realms of confusion, claim and counter-claim: police say Ray Whelan has gone on the run, his employer Match says the police don’t know what they’re doing and FIFA is refusing to say anything because of the prosecutor’s failure to produce a report it had expected two days ago.
The one clear lesson is that ticketing and hospitality at future World Cups needs a root and branch reconstruction. Transparency of titles and roles and tenders is also essential.
Without casting any judgments in the current case neither the police investigation or FIFA’s own vulnerable position have been served usefully by the blurred lines between ticketing and hospitality caused by the similarity of company names.
For example, an original statement defending Whelan came from Match Hospitality before it was confirmed that his formal employment status is as ‘executive consultant’ to Match Services.
For Jaime Byrom of both Match companies – and parent group Bryom – to accuse the police of being confused about the industry appeared to ignore one initial and glaring source of confusion.
FIFA spokesperson Delia Fischer reiterated in the daily morning media briefing – yet again – that the world federation was still awaiting the promised ‘final report’ from the investigating authorities which had been two days in the offing.
Fabio Barucke, the leader of Operacao Jules Rimet, then claimed that Whelan had slipped out of a service entrance of the Copacabana Hotel, which is FIFA headquarters, 20 minutes before the police turned up to re-arrest him over the allegation that he was involved in a multi-million-dollar World Cup ticketing scam.
As if revisiting a scenario from Keystone Cops, Barucke was reported by AP as saying: “He’s now considered a fugitive. We have security camera images of him exiting the hotel through a service door.”
In an added piece of nonsense Whelan was apparently leaving the hotel just as FIFA president Sepp Blatter was trying to come in, albeit not through the service entrance.
Simulaneously Jaime Byrom, who has worked hand-in-glove with FIFA since 1986 in areas of accommodation, ticketing, ‘IT services’ and hospitality issued a ‘personal statement’ taking the police to task yet again.
Match had criticised the police on Wednesday for acting prejudicially in the manner of its investigation and of issuing deliberately selective leaks to the media. Byrom reiterated that criticism in insisting that the police had failed to understand the “distinction to be made between admission tickets and hospitality packages.”
The potential for confusion was illustrated by Byrom being described in his own statement as executive chairman of both Match Services and Match Hospitality.
In an attempt to clarify matters, his statement added the following:
“Research on our group of companies would have alerted them [the police] to the fact that there are two companies, each of which has a different role and relationship with FIFA. MATCH Services is a service company responsible for delivering the Accommodation, Ticketing and IT Solutions for the FIFA World Cup. In the area of Accommodation, MATCH Services acts as a principal in the purchase and the sale of hotel room nights. In the area of IT, MATCH Services acts as a service provider to FIFA. In the area of Ticketing, MATCH Services is a service provider to FIFA. MATCH Services provides a turnkey solution. It is also responsible for the Ticketing Enforcement Programme. This is a specialist team that works closely with the authorities to prevent and investigate parallel market activities, not only in Brazil, but also with competent authorities the world over. MATCH Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of Byrom plc, which is a UK public liability company owned by the Byrom family.”