Scalping probe implicates longtime FIFA partner

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm •  Published: July 7, 2014
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The company that has been implicated in a ticket scalping investigation at the World Cup has been an intimate member of FIFA's family for more than 20 years.

Managed in England by Mexican brothers Jaime and Enrique Byrom, the MATCH group of companies has won a series of FIFA contracts to run ticketing, travel, accommodation and technology services at the World Cup since 1994. It also operates Ryder Cup hospitality.

Ray Whelan, who was arrested on Monday by Rio de Janeiro police investigating suspected illegal ticket sales, is a longstanding director and project manager within the MATCH group.

When the police probe was revealed last week, Enrique Byrom told The Associated Press he would "nail him" if one of his own men was involved.

The Rio case implicated the MATCH Hospitality subsidiary, which has exclusive rights to sell and market World Cup corporate ticket packages.

In 2007, MATCH Hospitality agreed to pay FIFA $240 million for a two-tournament deal: the 2010 World Cup South Africa and 2014 in Brazil.

The first event — testing the firm's ability to sell a luxury product during a global economic downturn — was a heavy loss maker for shareholders. They include Switzerland-based sports agency Infront, whose president and chief executive is Philippe Blatter, a nephew of the FIFA President.

In Johannesburg four years ago, Jaime Byrom was bullish about MATCH Hospitality's prospects to recoup the initial loss and return an overall profit.

The company said in 2012 it had already made enough corporate sales to guarantee a profit.

By then, FIFA had awarded MATCH Hospitality exclusive rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar, respectively.

It is unclear if that deal, for an undisclosed amount, could be voided in the fallout of an embarrassing episode which unfolded Monday inside FIFA's chosen five-star hotel base in Rio de Janeiro.