Director of FIFA hospitality partner arrested in World Cup ticket scalping bust

Whelan, far right, at a FIFA press conference ahead of the 2014 World Cup draw (Getty)
Whelan, far right, at a FIFA press conference ahead of the 2014 World Cup draw (Getty)

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Rio de Janeiro police have confirmed that Ray Whelan, an executive director for FIFA partner Match Services, has been arrested under suspicion of running a major World Cup ticket scalping operation. Globo reports that Whelan was arrested at Copacabana Palace hotel, where agents found 100 match tickets in his room.

Match Services became FIFA's official hospitality partner for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups after submitting a winning bid of $240 million. The deal was widely seen as controversial at the time since Philippe Blatter, nephew of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, is president of Infront Sports & Media, which is a minority shareholder in Match Services.

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According to the Associated Press, nearly 500,000 of the more than three million 2014 World Cup tickets were allocated to Match and unsold or unused corporate hospitality tickets were supposed to be returned to FIFA so they could then be made available to the public. Re-selling World Cup tickets for a profit is illegal in Brazil and against FIFA and Match rules. At least, the rules they claim to have.

The arrest of 11 people, including Algerian businessman Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, led police to Whelan after they determined that Fofana "had links to someone close to FIFA, who was the source of the unsold or unused tickets and who was staying at the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro."

Police estimated that the scalping ring was making almost $500,000 per match, which works out to more than $27 million so far, and were hoping to make $16,000 per ticket for the World Cup final in Rio. Match has threatened to cancel tickets for the semifinal and final in the name of firms linked to the scheme, but with one of the company's own directors possibly serving as ringleader it might be difficult to throw the blame elsewhere.

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