A Polish Football Association official was arrested for “ticket-touting” outside the Aviva Stadium on Sunday before the Euro 2016 qualifier, an Irish court has heard today.
Kazimierz Gren of the Polish Football Association (PZPN) had travelled to Dublin on an official, all-expenses-paid trip for his national team's crucial match against Republic of Ireland, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
But the 52-year-old ended up spending a night in a cell and had to get score updates from his guards after he was arrested at Lansdowne Road for unlawfully selling match tickets before the kick-off.
He has been spared a possible fine and a criminal record after a judge found that while Gren had been ticket-touting, there were “extenuating circumstances”.
Judge Michael Walsh heard claims at Dublin District Court that Gren had been trying to help Polish ex-pats go to the game.
The PZPN executive had been held in custody over night and charged under Section 3 of the Casual Trading Act for failing to produce a licence allowing him to sell the tickets in public places.
Gren, from Popieluszki, Rzeszow, in south-eastern Poland was brought to appear before Judge Walsh at Dublin District Court today.
Defence solicitor Matthew de Courcy confirmed that his client, who had the proceedings translated, was pleading guilty to a charge.
Gda Sergeant Niall Gilhooley told Judge Walsh that the case involved selling tickets without a licence at the Ireland-Poland match on Sunday.
“This is ticket-touting” said the judge.
Mr de Courcy explained that while the situation seemed “shady”, Gren worked for a regional office of the Polish Football Association and had come to Dublin on an expenses-paid trip for the match.
He had brought over 12 tickets for relatives of people in his district in Poland who are now living in Ireland.
Nina Blasik (aged 30) from Hanasterzec, Sesku, Poland, also pleaded guilty to the same charge and Mr de Courcy explained she was a friend of Gren and was present to facilitate meeting the people who were waiting for their tickets.
Judge Walsh said the match was a sell-out, but noted from the defence lawyer that the block of 12 seats on Gren's tickets went unused.
Gren had to learn the match result from gardaí after he was held overnight pending his court appearance, the judge was also told.
Mr de Courcy said his clients have a flight booked to return home tomorrow and he asked the judge to note that it was an unfortunate set of circumstances and that Gren and Blasik had no prior convictions.
There was possibility of having a technical argument in relation to the charge, the solicitor told the court.
He said that Gren and Blasik had been "nearly home and dry" but he asked the judge to note that "they are holding their hands up, pleading guilty".
The tickets had been sourced in Poland and Gren had been trying to accommodate some Polish people residing in Dublin, the judge was told.
Judge Walsh said he was marking the case as facts proved, but in view of the extenuating circumstances he was striking it out.