I thank the Chairman and the committee for the opportunity to discuss the scheme of the sale of tickets (cultural, entertainment, sporting and recreational events) Bill. Along with my colleagues, we very much welcome the opportunity to contribute to the committee’s scrutiny of the scheme and to assist it in any way we can.
In terms of the background to the Bill, it is useful to recall some important milestones. In response to growing public and political concern over the resale of event tickets for a multiple of their original sale price, our Department and the then Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport launched a public consultation on the issue on 20 January 2017. On 31 January 2017, Noel Rock and Deputy Stephen Donnelly introduced a Private Members’ Bill, the Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Bill 2017. On 1 March 2017, the Sale of Tickets (Cultural and Sporting Events) Bill 2017 was introduced by the chairman of the committee, Deputy Quinlivan. On 24 July 2018, the Government agreed to support on Second Stage the Private Members’ Bill introduced by Noel Rock and Deputy Stephen Donnelly and approved the drafting of a several amendments to it. The Bill then lapsed upon the dissolution of the Thirty-second Dáil.
All the Bills had, at their hearts, provisions to ensure fans were treated fairly. That overriding objective is carried through into this scheme of the Bill. The scheme now under scrutiny by the committee was approved for drafting by the Government on 29 September 2020. While it has its origin in the Private Members’ Bill supported by the previous Government, it differs from it in a number of respects.
I am limited to five minutes so please excuse me for not going through the scheme provision by provision. Instead, I will summarise. The scheme aims to promote fairer access to event tickets by prohibiting the sale, or advertising for sale, of tickets for a price exceeding the original sale price for events taking place in designated venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more. Applications for designation would be made by the operators of venues of this size who reasonably expect the venue to hold events that may give rise to above sale price resale. The Minister would also have a reserve power to designate venues, including venues with a capacity of less than 1,000, that have not been the subject of an application for designation. This approach of applying the prohibition to events in designated venues has been taken for two reasons. First, above-face-value resale affects a small proportion of events and it is good practice to limit regulation to where it is necessary. Second, the prohibition on above sale price resale can be more effectively monitored and enforced if it applies to events in a list of known venues.
Requiring primary ticket sellers to indicate if a ticket is for an event in a designated venue and secondary ticket sellers to indicate the original sale price of event tickets also assists enforcement. The prohibition would not apply to authorised ticket sales held to fund the activities of charitable organisations and amateur sports clubs. The ban on above-sale-price resale affects property rights so it is balanced by a prohibition, with some exceptions, of contract terms that preclude ticket holders from selling a ticket for a price at or below the original sale price. In line with a commitment given by Government to UEFA, the unauthorised sale of tickets for matches during Euro 2020 is prohibited.
Other provisions deal with the powers of the Garda Síochána to enforce the provisions of the legislation, offences and penalties and defences, including the defences relating to secondary ticket marketplaces necessitated by the electronic commerce directive. It was intended to include a prohibition on the use of bot software to purchase tickets, but a provision of this type now forms part of an EU directive and will be implemented along with the other provisions of the directive in the scheme of a Bill to be submitted to Government early next year. Of course, the development of this scheme arose during the Covid-19 pandemic. While we hope that it may be possible for events to take place without restrictions in the not too distant future, the need to control the spread of Covid-19 may require attendances to be limited for some time. Limitations on attendance might increase the competition for tickets and could create both incentive and opportunity for the resale of tickets at inflated prices. The proposed Bill will help ensure that this does not happen.
To conclude, the approach recognises that profiteering enriches opportunists with no interest or involvement in music or sport at the expense of sports and music fans, sporting bodies, artists and promoters. We are happy to discuss the provisions of the scheme in more detail and to respond to questions from members of the committee.