FIFA has come out in defense of ticket partner Match Services following the arrest of executive Ray Whelan, who is suspected of running a major World Cup ticket scalping operation. Whelan was arrested by Brazilian police on Monday and released on bail. He was labeled a fugitive when police tried to re-arrest him on Thursday, only to find that he had fled his hotel through a service door with his lawyer, who is reportedly negotiating terms of Whelan's next contact with police.
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After explaining that Match Services is wholly owned by Byrom plc and "a legal entity separate" from Match Hospitality, which counts a company led by FIFA president Sepp Blatter's nephew as a minority shareholder, FIFA tried to dismiss any notion of wrongdoing from its partner company and executives.
Based on the experience gained throughout almost 30 years of collaboration with Byrom plc, FIFA trusts in the loyal and respectable business behaviour of Byrom plc, its staff and principals and is confident that an assessment of all facts and underlying business concepts will exonerate the staff and principals of Byrom plc.
FIFA is fully committed to fight any form of ticket touting activity in connection with the FIFA World Cup™ in order to ensure a fair allocation and pricing of tickets to the benefit of football fans around the world.
Match Services is also standing by Whelan and claims the "fugitive" tag is inappropriate. Even though he is technically a fugitive.
From the Guardian:
In a statement on Friday, Match said it believed that the terms of Whelan's release did not restrict his movements as long as he remained in the country.
The company said it did not believe the term "fugitive" was appropriate under the circumstances as he was with his lawyer. "We understand that any accused in Brazil has the fundamental right to resist a coercion that he believes to be arbitrary and illegal."
It said it had not yet had an opportunity to speak to Whelan or his lawyer but that he did not flee from the hotel. It said that police, when they found he was not there, simply requested that he present himself at the station.
"Ray Whelan has not yet been granted the due process of a fair trial. Match remains absolutely confident that any charges raised against Ray will be rebutted," it added.
Of course, Whelan remains innocent until proven guilty. And with FIFA's full backing, that probably won't happen even if he is.