By Gugulakhe Lourie
JOHANNESBURG June 27 (Reuters) – FIFA hit back on Sunday at critics who blamed soccer’s world governing body for fans and companies losing millions on World Cup ticketing scams, which have left many seats empty in the stadiums.
South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reported that petrochemical giant Sasol (SOLJ.J) and dozens of South African and foreign fans have lost more than 6.5 million rand ($852,500) in World Cup scams after buying tickets from illegal dealers.
“We have no specific comments on the issue of buying tickets outside FIFA channels,” FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said at a media briefing on Sunday, adding that FIFA should not take the blame for millions lost by fans and companies.
“Honestly, we have published I don’t know how many warnings before the competition, even before 2006.”
Clifford Green, a lawyer for FIFA and its hospitality affiliate Match, told the Sunday Times that this week he handed police a dossier of affidavits from seven companies on their huge losses.
FIFA this week named Norwegian company Euroteam, which operates websites, as selling tickets illegally.
Danish national Michael Bakkerstrom and German Siv Anne Basley appeared in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court this week for allegedly selling tickets illegally for Euroteam.
Despite the crackdown, Euroteam put an advert in the Sunday Times’s sister newspaper, The Times, on Friday, saying: “World Cup 2010 Tickets. All matches including the final.”
A tiny note on the advert says the firm is not affiliated to FIFA and all orders are subject to Norwegian law.
“No one should buy tickets outside the official channels. First, you put yourself in an illegal situation and, second, you might not enter the stadium,” Maingot said.
This is little comfort to Sasol Oil, a unit of Sasol, which is reported to have lost 3.3 million rand in the ticketing scam.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, Sasol’s spokeswomen, confirmed the company was defrauded of millions by illegal ticketing dealers.
“I cannot comment further on a legal matter,” O’Sullivan said, when asked whether Sasol was planning to sue the company that sold them illegal tickets.
The Sunday Times said other comapnies that made statements to the police on their ticketing woes include a firm in Johannesburg, which lost 2.8 million rand after buying 80 tickets, including hospitality.
“FIFA is also working closely with New Scotland Yard in the UK in shutting down several fraudulent and unauthorised websites,” FIFA said in a statement.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)