UEFA hoped that personalized Euro 2016 tickets would make scalpers' lives difficult, but outside the stadiums touts are still having a field day. DW sports went out to discover what's behind their dubious dealings.
A pedestrian crossing in front of Les Princes restaurant, around three minutes from the Parc de Princes Stadium in Paris, has become a veritable marketplace. The scalpers descended on this spot two weeks ago for the Turkey-Croatia match, and they were back plying their trade before the Wales-Northern Ireland knockout game.
The police have cordoned off the area, traffic has come to a halt and fans are making their way to the stadium. Black market dealers move among them, scanning their ranks for potential customers and murmuring "tickets, tickets."
Touts are charging 200 euros for a pair of tickets. "It's a big game," says one, stretching the truth a bit. The original face value of the tickets was 25 euros each. The scalpers just smile condescendingly whenever someone objects to inflated prices. Others are happy to pay the price to see a Euro 2016 match live. When one dealer runs out of tickets, another is quickly summoned to take his place. Such are the laws of supply and demand.
There are some twenty scalpers in front of the Parc de Princes - some working alone, others in tandem. There are deals being done everywhere.
Two fans in England kits are trying to sell their tickets. They had assumed England and not Wales would top their group in the first round of the tournament, which would have meant that the Three Lions would be playing here tonight.
A tout is happy to give them ten euros on top of the face value of the tickets. He can sell them for much more than that. The transaction is done in a flash. The tout has already disappeared, before the English fans even finish counting their money.
Freebies and fakes
Business continues for a number of hours. Even after the opening whistle, tickets are still changing hands, although a French fan tells us that prices are beginning to fall. He's following the course of the match on his iPad and asking every once in while what tickets cost.
"I always come to games, if I have nothing better to do," he tells us. "If the price is right, I watch the second half live."
French police intervene and clear away fans desperate for tickets and dealers fifteen minutes into the match. Until now, they've ignored the tout's activities, as have the UEFA volunteers who are charged with giving fans directions to the stadium.
For years, the sale of tickets to World Cups and European Championships has been strictly regulated. Ahead of Euro 2016, individuals could buy a maximum of four tickets, all of which were personalized, directly from UEFA. That was supposed to hinder the black market and prevent potentially violent hooligans from attending matches.
It's illegal to sell on tickets - except via official UEFA exchange platforms, which were only open for a few weeks before the start of the tournament. If you examine the tickets the scalpers are flogging, you'll find made-up-sounding names like Charles de Joel. Names are rarely checked at the entrance gates to stadiums.
Some tickets don't contain any names at all, and the official price is listed at zero euros. As is always the case at major tournaments, a significant percentage of tickets to Euro 2016 go to sponsors, organizers and national football associations. Many of them end up on the black market. And consumer-rights groups warn that many scalped tickets are simply fakes.
Other dealers, other tricks
In front of the Stade de France in the northern part of Paris, scalpers are far less conspicuous. They do their business near a bridge over a highway and are much better dressed. The clash today is a big one: Spain versus Italy.
"We work together with a ticket agency," one tote from Germany claims.
He talks quickly, trying to get rid of a pair of tickets, and quickly contradicts himself. He shows us his national identity card in an effort to win our trust and offers to give us his telephone number. We're to send him a text message, he says, if something goes wrong in the stadium.
One of the scalper's customers, an older man, heads toward the Stade de France security gates. He's frisked and the barcode on his ticket, which contains the name "Silvenia," is scanned. A green light illuminates and he goes through the turnstile.
We have no way of ascertaining how much the man paid for his ticket. One thing, though, is certain: prices will only increase, the further the tournament progresses.