RIO DE JANEIRO: Ray Whelan – and by implication FIFA partner Match – has been exonerated of all the ticket-tour allegations laid against him in Brazil during the closer stages of the World Cup writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
A court in Rio de Janeiro has ruled there is insufficient evidence to pursue a case against Whelan, an executive consultant of the company which is a subsidiary of the Cheadle-based Byrom Group.
The latest, definite ruling will come as immense relief to Whelan who was twice detained in prison in Rio and then released on his own recognisance and passport surrender. Uncertainty has dragged on for seven months while he and Match/Byrom vehemently denied all charges.
Whelan and the company insisted all along that the Rio prosecutor’s office and police had failed to understand the different roles undertaken by two companies with similar names – Match Services which dealt with ticketing and IT support and Match Hospitality which dealt with accommodation provision for the ‘FIFA family.’
The family-owned Byrom company owns Match Services in its entirety and is the majority owner of Match Hospitality in which a small stake is held by InFront, the TV rights-sales partner of FIFA and which has just been bought by the China’s Dalian Wanda group.
The court ruling removes any obstacle to Byrom/Match continuing a partnership with FIFA which has been ongoing since 1986.
Last autumn Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary-general, stated that the world federation would be happy to extend all contractual arrangements assuming all legal issues were cleared up.
The court ruled not only that Whelan would not face charges but that the police had committed a string of mistakes in collecting evidence and worked “in haste”.
Cases against 11 others facing similar charges remain ongoing, however.
Police had claimed that an international gang had been working on ticket touting projects at World Cups going back to 2002, generating an alleged £50m per tournament.