So near and yet so far for Hoàng Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) in the AFC Champions League over the weekend.
The team from Pleiku fell to a 2-1 defeat to Yokohama F. Marinos of Japan but they gave their heavily favoured opponents a mighty scare.
The action on the park at Thống Nhất Stadium in HCM City was a great advert for local football but sadly events off the pitch left a lot to be desired.
In the run-up to the game, it was breathlessly reported that all tickets had sold out, with residents of Việt Nam’s biggest city eager to see a J.League side in the flesh.
However those same reports noted that many of those tickets had been sold to touts seeking to make a profit on the black market.
Anyone who’s been to live football in Việt Nam knows touts are a part of the game here and most of us have probably bought a ticket from one of them.
For the likes of myself and other foreigners, paying an extra VNĐ30,000 or VNĐ50,000 is no big deal and still a hell of a lot cheaper than a day out to the match back home.
Lots of Vietnamese fans don’t seem to mind either, judging by how ubiquitous ticket touts are.
Even the online news sites reporting on the tickets being snapped up by touts seemed to excuse the black market activity, noting that the tickets weren’t too expensive.
My point is most of us are guilty of tolerating ticket touting, but when you put the practice under the microscope, it’s clear that has to stop
Even one real supporter being priced out of going to see their team play is one too many, especially when most V.League teams struggle to fill their grounds week in and week out.
Touting also damages clubs’ reputations, as how professional can a football club be if it’s nigh-on impossible to actually buy tickets directly from the club? The same goes for the league itself.
So what’s to be done? The solution needn’t be complex or awfully costly, but it will require determination.
It would be relatively simple for most clubs (certainly those in the major cities at least) to go to digital tickets that couldn’t be sold on for a profit either through a third-party or by building their own club app, which would bring all sorts of ancillary benefits.
So why have no clubs done this yet?
I suspect the unfortunate reason is that plenty of people connected to clubs here make a pretty penny by flogging tickets to touts and therefore they have no incentive to sort out the problem.
The league as a whole and clubs need to figure out a way to incentivise them, as in the long run, ticket touting is only holding back the game here. VNS