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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Has Official Scalpers for World Cup

Russian soccer fans are being charged up to seven times the official price for tickets to this year's World Cup in a blatant violation of Fifa regulations.

The touters buying the tickets up cheap and selling them high are not shady characters outside the stadium but the official partners of the Russian Football Union.

The official price for the cheapest tickets to see Russia play against Tunisia, Belgium and Japan in the first round of the World Cup in June is $198. But the Football Tourist Agency, which has been given a monopoly over the sale of the Russian Football Union's quota of tickets, is selling them for as much as $1,380.

"It's simply laughable," said one fan, who has complained to the RFA about the inflated ticket prices. "It's as if they don't want fans to go."

The fan, who did not want to be identified, found it cheaper to buy tickets via other national associations than in Russia itself.

"I was given a present for Christmas for the super classico England vs. Argentina and that only cost $350," he said.

In comparison, the starting price for a ticket from the Football Tourist Agency, or FTA, for the less than super classic match of Russia vs. Tunisia is $400.

For this year's World Cup in Japan and South Korea, the world soccer body, Fifa, has given each participating country a certain quota of tickets to be sold to fans. Fifa's regulations state that the tickets must be sold at face value plus no more than 10 percent added on for administrative costs.

"If a ticket is sold for more than face price plus 10 percent, it is in principle an illegal action," Fifa spokesman Nicolas Maingot said.

He would not say whether a penalty could or would be levied on the Russians, saying Fifa was not aware of how Russian tickets were being sold.

The Russian Football Union sold Russia's tickets for the official price plus an administrative fee to FTA, leaving fans with no choice but to pay FTA's prices.

As well as selling tickets directly to fans, FTA has sold blocks of tickets to a number of travel agencies. Several agencies said they were charged the high prices and forced to pass the costs on to fans.

The few fans who can afford to go to Japan to support Russia in the World Cup have largely been put off by the ticket prices, according to the agencies, all of which spoke on condition of anonymity. They said they feared ruining their relationship with the Russian Football Union.

The general director of FTA, Alexander Chernov, denied selling the tickets for as high as $1,380. He said the tickets were being sold at only double the face value, which is also against Fifa regulations.

However, in calls to the FTA over the past week, the agency's sales representatives repeatedly told The Moscow Times that the cheapest tickets cost $1,380.

The travel agencies said FTA was charging them similar prices.

FTA did quote a price of $200 twice for its cheapest tickets, once when the caller said he was phoning for The Moscow Times.

Chernov said FTA does not sell tickets for such low prices.

In comparison, tickets for England games in the World Cup have been sold through the national fan club, which charges face value plus 5 percent.

"There would be uproar among fans if we did [charge more]," said Englandfans spokesman Nick Barron. "The tickets are relatively expensive anyway."

Chernov, who said tickets were selling briskly, also denied charging travel agencies exorbitant prices.

The Russian Football Union said it had no knowledge of ticket scalping.

"I don't know," said Alexander Tukmanov, the union's technical director and the only official at the union willing to talk about the matter. "I will check."

Tukmanov said the union works with FTA because it has no fan club to deal with tickets and has worked with them before.