When Robbie Earle was sacked earlier this week for supplying 36 Dutch models with his allocation of match tickets, the world asked one question: How did an ITV pundit get 36 tickets for a match involving two sides he has never played for? (Incidentally, one model is shown above craftily changing from her civvies to the "ambush marketing" dress.) Well, that question is about to become even more incredulous, as the Mail on Sunday has revealed he was actually allocated 400 tickets for the entire tournament:
ITV was at the centre of a new World Cup ticketing storm last night after it was revealed that it supplied its disgraced football pundit Robbie Earle with an astonishing 400 tickets for the tournament, including 40 for the final with a black market value of at least £2,000 [$3,000] each.
A top ITV executive — one of its four directors of news and sport — helped organise Earle's massive allocation for 11 high-profile matches, including England's group games, with a face value of £70,000 [$100,000].
To put this in perspective, the BBC only applied for 200 tickets for the whole tournament; 20 were final tickets to be given to staff by lottery.
In a not-so-vindicating interview with the Mail, the Duke of Earle reveals that he did not acquire the tickets for the 400 members of his family who happened to be in South Africa this month, but for a "close friend" named Keith Higgins. Unfortunately for Earle, it seems that he didn't know his close friend well enough to know he was also a renowned re-seller of tickets for international events. Woops.
Earle explains the audacious process of application:
‘I discussed it with Keith and we put in for more than 400 tickets. He never expected to get them all. Normally you put in for say four tickets for a major final and you end up with two.
‘But early last year ITV got in touch and said I was getting almost all the tickets I had asked for. The total cost was around £65,000 to £70,000 [$96,000 to $100,000].'
ITV remains firm that the tickets were only intended for Earle's friends and family, and that it sent him several letters reminding him that he could not sell his allocation. And I'm sure that it managed to keep a straight face when it handed him those letters along with his 400 tickets and the bill for them.
There may have been plenty of empty seats during this tournament, but it's beyond outrageous that a single man in the media is able to buy $100,000 worth of tickets. Just think how many more booing England fans there could have been, for example, if this sort of thing wasn't allowed to happen...
- Robbie Earle