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Jury hears how Ed Sheeran’s team tried to beat touts at sold-out concerts

A jury trying two people in relation to the resale of tickets to a range of events at inflated prices has heard the lengths to which Ed Sheeran’s management has gone to combat the secondary ticketing market.

Statements from Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp were read at Leeds Crown Court on Wednesday at the trial of Lynda Chenery and Mark Woods, who are charged with fraudulent trading in relation to the activities of the firm TQ Tickets Ltd.

Mr Camp explained how Sheeran’s concert tours had a strict ticket pricing policy aimed at “keeping ticket prices accessible for as many people as possible”.

He said the demand for tickets was extremely high and they could be sold at very high prices but “we don’t want our tickets to be beyond some people”.

Mr Camp said this was a “long-terms business strategy that we see as ethical”.

He said Sheeran played 120 concerts in 2018 to around four million people.

Mr Camp outlined details of the extensive measures he and promoter Stuart Galbraith went to as they tried to prevent the re-selling of tickets at inflated prices for the singer’s 2018 UK stadium tour.

In another statement read on Wednesday, Mr Galbraith said this tour involved 18 concerts at five venues in Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle and London, with an average of around 70,000 people attending each event.

He said he was determined to stamp out reselling, except for one outlet which was contracted to resell tickets for those who genuinely could not make the events, but at face value prices.

The promoter said it was made very clear to buyers and primary sellers that tickets could not be resold, concert-goers would have to bring ID and proof of purchase to the events, and they would not be allowed into a stadium with re-sold tickets.

Mr Galbraith said he also wrote to three key figures at the secondary reselling site Viagogo to warn them of the consequences of re-selling the tickets.

He described how fans who were discovered trying to get into gigs with tickets bought on Viagogo were directed to “Victims of Viagogo” kiosks at the venues, where they were given letters to help them get a refund from the firm and offered fresh tickets at face value.

He said the pricing policy for the tour was £80 and £50 for the London dates and £75 and £45 outside the capital.

In his statement, Mr Galbraith said around 6,300 replacement tickets were sold over the course of the tour to those who presented unauthorised re-sold tickets. But he said he believed another 2,000 were bought at face value on the open marketplace by those who had their unauthorised tickets cancelled.

Danielle Graham, prosecuting, told the jury that National Trading Standards investigators had found that people working for TQ Tickets Ltd had bought 70 tickets at an average price of £74.17 for the 2018 Ed Sheeran UK tour, according information obtained from ticket firms.

But she said other evidence, obtained from the TQ Queen Ltd records, suggested 150 tickets had been bought by 23 different card holders and a further 200 tickets had been bought as part of group packages.

Lynda Chenery and Mark Woods are being tried at Leeds Crown Court (Alamy/PA)
Lynda Chenery and Mark Woods are being tried at Leeds Crown Court (Alamy/PA)

Ms Graham said information from secondary ticket sellers’ sites showed that the firm sold 148 tickets to concerts on the tour at an average price of £165.52.

She told the jury: “The tickets that were sold were sold for over double the face value price.”

The jury has been told how one person working at the company said on a message service that he had 38 web browsers open at one time as he attempted to obtain tickets to Sheeran’s 2018 tour as tickets went on sale in July 2017.

Prosecutors have said that TQ Tickets Ltd was motivated by “greed and dishonesty” when it “exploited the love and passion” of music lovers to make more than £6.5 million from secondary ticketing sites in two and a half years.

The court was told the firm used multiple identities, some of which were fake, to buy large amounts of tickets for artists such as Sheeran on primary sites including Ticketmaster and re-sell them on platforms such as Viagogo.

Maria Chenery-Woods, who prosecutors said was the “driving force” behind the “dishonest enterprise” and referred to herself as The Ticket Queen, has admitted fraudulent trading along with Paul Douglas, who prosecutors say referred to himself as Ticket Boy.

But their respective spouses – Woods and Chenery – deny the charges and are currently on trial.

Chenery is also Chenery-Woods’ sister.

Woods, 59, and Chenery, 51, both of Dickleburgh, near Diss, Norfolk, deny three counts of fraudulent trading.

Chenery-Woods, 54, also of Dickleburgh, and Douglas, 56, of Pulham Market, Norfolk, have pleaded guilty to the charges, the jury has been told.