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English director arrested in ticket touting probe

ESPN staff
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Ray Whelan (far right) used to work as an agent for Sir Bobby Charlton © Getty Images
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An English director of FIFA's hospitality partners MATCH has been arrested in Brazil as part of an investigation into illegal ticket sales.

Ray Whelan, who used to work as an agent for Sir Bobby Charlton, was arrested at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, the hotel reserved for FIFA's senior executives.

The arrest came as part of Operation Jules Rimet, Brazil police's investigation into ticket touting which has seen detectives tap phones, make a total of 12 arrests and seize a number of tickets.

MATCH backing

  • MATCH released a statement later on Tuesday saying they have complete confidence in Ray Whelan's innocence and that he will continue to work on their World Cup operations.
  • The statement read: "MATCH have complete faith that the facts will establish that he has not violated any laws.
  • "MATCH will continue to fully support all police investigations, which we firmly believe will fully exonerate Ray.
  • "In the meantime, Ray Whelan, as well as the rest of the MATCH personnel, will continue to work on our operational areas of responsibility in order to deliver a successful 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.'

A spokesman for the Rio de Janeiro State Security Secretariat confirmed on Monday that Whelan was in custody and would spend the night in a Rio police station.

MATCH is a division of Byrom plc, a company based at Cheadle in Cheshire. Whelan is not an employee of FIFA's but has become well-known in recent years in connection with MATCH's FIFA contracts.

Earlier, MATCH Hospitality announced it had blocked sales to four companies after tickets were seized from touts by Brazilian police.

The four companies are Atlanta Sportif, whose chief executive was one of those arrested in Rio de Janeiro, Reliance Industries Ltd, Jet Set Sports and Pamodzi.

Jet Set is based in New Jersey, Reliance is one of India's biggest companies, and Padmodzi is based in Nigeria.

A statement from MATCH read: "Following... the arrest of Lamine Fofana, CEO of Atlanta Sportif, engaging in illegal resales, MATCH Hospitality has cancelled all hospitality packages purchased by Atlanta Sportif for the remaining matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

"Pending further investigations, MATCH Hospitality will block the packages of Reliance Industries Ltd, Jet Set Sports and Pamodzi. The customers and agents mentioned above are to co-operate with MATCH Hospitality by helping the authorities with their enquiries regarding the hospitality packages with their names on them found in Mr Fofana's possession, failing which, MATCH Hospitality will cancel their tickets for the semi-final and the final too.''

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