For several years, German football fans have successfully fought to maintain relatively cheap tickets in the country’s new, modern arenas, giving less affluent fans the chance to attend the matches. But lately it seems that a few Bundesliga clubs have discovered a little back door to achieve additional revenues from ticket sales.

This back door is Viagogo, a company founded in 2006 and considered as the biggest online ticket retailer in the world. Viagogo’s business principle is simple. Individuals who wish to sell a ticket for a concert or sports event, can offer them on the portal and may set the price themselves. After trading the ticket, the seller pays a fee of 10 percent on the retail price to Viagogo. The buyer contributes with an additional fee of 15 percent.

In some cases, this system can be useful for someone who has a ticket, but cannot attend the event. Unfortunately, the portal apparently also opens a new distribution channel for black market dealers. I was amazed about the remarkable prices when I was looking for a ticket for last season’s Europa League final between Chelsea and Benfica in Amsterdam. Tickets between 400 and 1000 euros were no exception.

Somewhat different are the terms of official collaborations between Bundesliga clubs and the ticket retailer. Clubs like FC Augsburg, Hamburger SV, Hannover 96, Bayern Munich, 1. FC Nürnberg and VfB Stuttgart already work officially with Viagogo. However, Hamburg has ceased its cooperation after only a few weeks, following protests by its supporters. As a consequence, the club has announced to raise season ticket prices for the first time in five years. Also, Bayern does not want to extend their partnership beyond 2014.

Currently, club members of FC Schalke 04 are staunchly opposed to their club’s liaison with Viagogo, which started on July 1st 2013, with a term of three years. At Schalke’s annual general meeting last Saturday, a large majority voted against the cooperation with Viagogo. For many of these members, the agreement is a betrayal of Schalke’s tradition as a miners and working class association. Nevertheless, the club’s board will retain the cooperation with Viagogo since the voting was not binding.

The German press reported details of this cooperation during the last few weeks. Viagogo will become an official sponsor of Schalke and will pay 1.2 million euros per year to the club for this privilege. Each season, the online retailer receives a total of 3000 tickets for 10 home games at the Veltins-Arena (hence 10×300 tickets), which are not expected to be sold out right from the start. Viagogo can sell these tickets with a maximum surcharge of 100 percent. In addition, the club also has closed down its own and so far toll-free online ticket exchange.

In the eyes of Viagogo, all this is beneficial to both the fans and the club. To their own understanding, the company helps filling empty seats in the stadium and protects supporters against ticket fraud. Anyone who purchases tickets for a sold out event, would be better off with Viagogo than somewhere in a dark corner of the road, where there is no guarantee that the tickets are not fake.

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