Internet ticket touts who make millions of pounds from illegally selling seats at big football matches will face prosecution and have their profits seized in a new crackdown by police and top clubs.
The Premier League is writing to warn almost 140 websites that charge fans huge sums for tickets that they must stop trading or be reported to the police and be taken to court.
Lawyers for the league, which represents England's 20 elite clubs, are using an imminent toughening of the law on touting to tackle the shady trade that earns those involved an estimated ?30m a year. Scores of websites sell tickets sold originally for as little as ?20 for up to ?700 for key matches involving the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United.
The Violent Crime Reduction Bill, which becomes law this autumn, will make it an offence for the first time for internet agencies to sell tickets or hospitality packages that include tickets to games in the Premiership, the Football League, FA Cup, the Champions League, Uefa Cup and all World Cup and European Championship matches.
In letters to 133 websites Oliver Weingarten, the league solicitor, warns that it will seek injunctions against any who defy the new law.
Online agencies such as London-based Sold Out Entertainments, which are not licensed to sell seats, are among those targeted. It is offering tickets to almost every Premiership game and tells customers 'it is no longer a concern if the official sources have sold out of tickets, as Sold Out Entertainments.com are never sold out'. They are charging ?100 for a seat at Manchester United's game against Spurs next weekend.
The law will allow courts to seize the assets of online touts and stop eBay allowing users to buy and sell tickets.