Harlequins have launched an investigation after claiming “many” of their supporters sold tickets to rival Munster fans for last Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final at the Twickenham Stoop.
Under Heineken Cup participation rules, twice European champions Munster were allocated 25% of available tickets (3,750) for the game, which attracted a ground record 15,000 crowd.
But in a strongly-worded statement published on the club’s website today, Quins said it was “obvious from 90 minutes before kick-off” that Munster supporter numbers “exceeded” their ticket allocation.
Munster fans roared their team to an 18-12 success, setting up a semi-final appointment with French challengers Clermont Auvergne in Montpellier later this month.
“In the two weeks leading up to the match, the club was aware that tickets were being sold on Ebay and through other unauthorised channels,” Quins said.
“Where possible, it tried to identify the source of the tickets, the tickets involved and cancel them.
“Last Sunday, it was obvious from 90 minutes before kick-off that Munster’s well organised and wonderful supporters had a presence in the stadium that exceeded the number of tickets officially allocated to them.
“The colourful and vocal support they gave their talented team during the match provided further evidence of this, if it was needed.
“Given the controlled manner that tickets were made available for the match, it is clear to the club that many of its ’supporters’ sold their tickets on to opposition fans.
“To say that this is disappointing for the players, coaches, management and staff of the club is an understatement.
“The club is determined to identify any person that sold on his or her ticket, and will ensure that last Sunday’s outcome is not repeated.”
Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Quins return to The Stoop on Saturday for a league appointment with Bath.
And the club clearly feel let down that tickets for such a high-profile occasion were sold on as Quins strived to reach their first Heineken semi-final.
“A total of 15,000 people were an essential part of an historic day for the club, which is very disappointed that a bigger share of those present were obviously not Harlequins’ supporters, despite the club’s best efforts to ensure that they had priority in the ticketing process,” the statement continued.
“In deciding to host such a high-profile occasion with such experienced and prestigious opponents as Munster, the club recognised from the outset that its ticketing policy had to be transparent and that it would be put to the test, given the anticipated demand.
“At no stage did tickets for the match go on sale to the general public.
“Instead, Harlequins season ticket holders and members were given priority access to the 8,520 tickets that were available for them. All of these tickets were rapidly taken up within the restricted times they were on sale.
“Under the participation rules of the Heineken Cup, 25 per cent of the tickets available in all categories had to be allocated to the opposition. Munster sold all of this allocation to its supporters.
“Further tickets (750) were allocated as required by the tournament rules to the organisers ERC (European Rugby Cup) and its sponsors (Heineken, Amlin, EDF, FedEx and adidas).
“In addition, a number were used for Harlequins’ sponsors, corporate guests, community clubs, players, staff and official charities. The few tickets that were returned were sold to the club’s season ticket holders.”