Black marketeers touting tickets for England's clash with Colombia

The black market trade in World Cup tickets was said to be "thriving" as fans reported difficulties in returning theirs for official re-sales.

Touts holding wads of tickets to England's crucial game with Colombia at Spartak Stadium on Tuesday made their sales pitches in view of the official Fifa ticket centre in Moscow.

Within moments of walking out of Dobryninskaya metro station, the nearest to the ticket office, the Press Association was offered a category two ticket for the match for 600 US dollars (£458), more than £300 above face value.

Fifa and Russian authorities pledged to take stringent measures to prevent touting before the tournament, with fines increased for unauthorised ticket selling.

England - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Media Activity - 13th June
England - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Media Activity - 13th June

But a handful of police officers in the area appeared not to notice the open market operating in the bright Moscow sunshine.

Those selling tickets also appeared to include football fans who wanted to sell their individual ticket to a match they could no longer attend.

It comes as the online trade in tickets was also apparently booming, with one tout on Facebook claiming to have 40 tickets for sale for up to 900 dollars (£686) for the highest category seats.

Two England fans who had bought legitimate tickets and were picking them up from the Fifa ticket office in Moscow were critical of the how the governing body is handling ticketing.

Brian Wright, 48, from Coventry, said the sums were "crazy" and added he believed some fans had been refused refunds, leaving them with no choice.

Fellow England fan Neil Winfield, 54, agreed some fans had been left with no choice but to sell to the black market because they could not get refunds from Fifa.

Mr Winfield, from Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire, said: "There's Argentinians here who've got tickets for games and would like just their money back are being told 'no, you're not getting your money back go home'.

"How are those tickets getting resold? It has to be the black market so the black market economy is thriving."

The #ThreeLions have arrived in Moscow! ?

Gareth Southgate will be speaking to the media at the Spartak Stadium shortly, joined by @youngy18.

-- England (@England) July 2, 2018

A loophole in the Fan ID system, which also acts as a visa to get into Russia, allows fans to get an ID with any ticket reference, whether they have purchased it or not.

Mr Winfield, who has attended every World Cup since Italia 90, said he had used tickets in other people's names without being stopped.

"I've been in a few games, places have given me tickets," he said.

"If an Argentinian is going home tomorrow and he's got three tickets I can say to him 'hey I'll buy them off you for less than face value, it's better than having nothing'.

"How come as an England fan I could not get a ticket for England Belgium, I went in a few ballots.

"I tried to get a legitimate one, still wouldn't give me one but here on the ground. How does that work?"

Mr Wright said he was unable to get a refund after he could not attend England's first game after his best friend and Coventry City fan Chris Green, 48, died just weeks before the tournament.

He said: "The first game, Tunisia, unfortunately my best friend passed away about four weeks before and his funeral was on the day of the England Tunisia game.

"So he was my best mate, of course I'm going to go to his funeral. Contacted Fifa, 'sorry, we can't give you refunds'."

Fifa previously said it regarded unauthorised ticket sales as a "serious issue" and it was striving to stop the trade.

And the spokesman added: "Since in the end ticket touting represents a criminal offence, we rely on the support of the respective authorities to tackle this issue within the scope of the applicable legislation."

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