FIFA files criminal complaint against secondary ticket firm Viagogo

FIFA on Tuesday said it had filed a criminal complaint against the secondary ticketing firm Viagogo's sale of 2018 World Cup tickets, opening a new battle between sports organisations and websites seeking a share of their profits.

"As part of its efforts to protect the fans and prevent unauthorised ticket resales for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, FIFA filed a criminal complaint on 4 June 2018 based on a breach of the law on unfair competition against Viagogo AG with the public prosecutor?s office in Geneva," world football's governing body said in a statement.

"Over the past months, FIFA has received numerous complaints from individuals, consumer protection bodies and other market players over the opaque and deceptive business conduct of Viagogo AG," it added.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FIFA noted that in seeking legal action it was joining other sports bodies, including UEFA, which has previously taken Viagogo to court.

The European confederation stepped up its battle against secondary ticket sites ahead of the Euro-2016 tournament, when it established its own online resale platform and asserted that no one but UEFA could legitimately sell match tickets.

- World Cup warning -

With the World Cup set to kick off in just nine days, FIFA also warned fans to stay clear of any "unauthorised transfer and/or resale of tickets".

It also said that anyone with a ticket that can be traced to an unauthorised resale site may be refused entry to World Cup matches.

"FIFA reminds all fans that is the only official and legitimate website on which to buy 2018 FIFA World Cup tickets," the statement further said.

Viagogo describes itself as "a global online platform for live sport, music and entertainment tickets", that aims to "helps ticket sellers ranging from individuals with a spare ticket to large multi-national event organisers reach a global audience".

The company is no stranger to controversy, including accusations of steep price markups as well as battles with the artists and sports entities that drive its business.

Last month, English singer Ed Sheeran and his promoters announced that tickets for his concerts sold on Viagogo would be deemed invalid.

The company was founded in 2006 by American businessman Eric Baker, who had previously been the pioneer behind Stubhub, the secondary ticket giant widely used by North American sports fans, which was subsequently bought by online retailer ebay.

In April, Britain's Competition and Markets Authority singled out Viagogo as the sole secondary ticket seller which had refused to make changes that the regulator deemed necessary to protect consumers.

Key among those recommended changes was providing better information to the seller about the ticket, including whether there was a risk it could be rejected at the venue.

British authorities warned Viagogo that the company would face legal action if it continued to reject calls for change.