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Royal Opera House Warns Culture Secretary Sajid Javid Over Ticket Tout Support

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SAJID JAVID
New Culture Secretary Sajid Javid arrives at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, in Westminster, central London. | Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Culture secretary Sajid Javid is facing a growing backlash from arts and sports organisations over his praise for ticket touts as "classic entrepreneurs" who should be able to charge however much they want when they sell a ticket.

A spokesman for the Royal Opera House said that ticket touts deprive the public of the chance to enjoy their shows by snapping up the cheap tickets they offer to sell on at much higher prices.

"We receive a grant from the Arts Council to help make the Roya Opera House accessible to all. We have over 40% of our seats prices are less than £40," a spokesman told HuffPostUK.

"A tout who buys cheap seats for highly desirable productions and then sells them at a vast profit undermines the whole point of subsidy, and it is the public who lose out. By selling these tickets at inflated prices, it denies access to those who the tickets are aimed at."

Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, told Radio 4 in January that ticket touting was "desperately unfair" on those who wanted to attend the theatre and suggested that it should be made illegal.

“The frustrating thing in our case is that it tends to be the cheaper seats and it tends to be an extraordinary mark-up, effectively mis-selling,” he said.

Javid, who was made culture secretary after Maria Miller resigned amid a row over her expenses, said in 2011: "Ticket resellers act like classic entrepreneurs, because they fill a gap in the market that they have identified."

"They provide a service that can help people who did not obtain a supply of tickets in the original sale to purchase them for sporting and cultural events. As long as those tickets have been acquired genuinely and lawfully, it is an honest transaction, and there should be no Government restriction on someone's ability to sell them."

He dismissed a Labour MP's concerns about touts' high prices as those of the "chattering middle classes and champagne socialists", adding that "they are providing a service that deserves to be rewarded."

Despite their differences over ticket touts, the Royal Opera House spokesman congratulated Javid on his appointment and added: "We look forward to working with him in the forthcoming months."

The coalition government has said that it favours self-regulation and has no plans to regulate ticket touts.

Stuart Littlewood, chairman of the Concert Promoters' Association, told HuffPostUK that Javid's comments were "naive" and lamented: "We don't see any changes from this culture secretary to the last one". He urged Javid to meet with the CPA or other industry groups.

A spokesman for the Football Supporters' Federation said: "Football tickets are expensive enough without clubs allowing a third party to get between fan and club, especially one which has no objective other than to get their hands on fans' money."

Labour MPs told HuffPostUK that Javid was "out of touch" and "blind to the facts". Kerry McCarthy, who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ticket Abuse, said: "It seems that the new Culture Secretary has very little understanding of the problems caused by organised ticket touts and the secondary market. He has allowed his overriding faith in free market ideology to blind him to the facts.

"Unscrupulous agencies are making huge profits at the expense of genuine fans, who are being priced out of the market. I would hope that as the Culture Secretary he would put the interests of music fans, sports fans and others first, and do all he can to ensure fair access to cultural and sporting events.

Fellow Labour member Steve Rotheram said Javid's comments were "typical of a government that thinks more about those making huge sums of money, rather than customers that are being ripped off.

"He is out of touch, but hopefully being given high office might make him consider the concerns of ordinary people who are sick and tired of being exploited."

Tory MP Mike Weatherley, who is co-chair of the APPG which has been looking into the touting of tickets, said: "It's my job now to show him that he is wrong on this subject!

"Sajid is a very capable person who I am sure will respond to sound argument. Once our report is published, I will be seeking an early meeting with him."

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