Ticket tout jailed for defying football ban and going to the World Cup
A ticket tout who defied a football banning order to attend the World Cup in Qatar has been jailed.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Stuart O’Brien, 48, of Whitehaven Road, in Anfield, was the subject of a five-year football banning order when he travelled to Qatar to see the World Cup in November 2022.
The banning order was imposed at Sefton Magistrates Court on 24 February 2021 as he had been operating as a ticket tout in Liverpool. A tout buys up tickets for an event to resell them at a profit.
It prevented him from attending any football games in the UK but also banned him from being in a specified area around Liverpool FC’s home ground six hours before kick off and one hour afterwards.
On 17 October 2022 the Football Banning Orders Authority (FBOA) sent letters to all those subject to banning orders for the period of the World Cup and told them to report to their local police station and surrender their passports.
This letter went to Mr O’Brien but he emailed the FBOA requesting an exemption, saying he was attending a family wedding in Ireland on 14 November 2022 and would return on 17 November.
The FBOA asked him to send proof of his flights and the accommodation booking and O’Brien did. The FBOA granted travel on the basis that he surrendered his passport to Merseyside Police the day after he returned, 18 November.
On 17 November, Mr O’Brien emailed the FBOA saying he had decided to stay for another week in Ireland with relatives. He provided evidence of a hotel reservation that included a stay until 4 December. The FBOA emailed Mr O’Brien asking him to provide his return flight booking to the UK but no response was received. The FBOA emailed him again. Again, no response was received.
On 1 December, a Merseyside Police Officer rang his home address and asked to speak to him. A relative replied, “He’s in Qatar.”
A search warrant was executed at the home of a relative of O’Brien’s in the Everton area of Liverpool for an unrelated matter. Boxes of football memorabilia were found in boxes, including a large number of tickets for the USA v Wales match in Qatar on 21 November 2022. There were also tickets for Everton FC games.
An ID card issued for the World Cup was also found, along with tickets for hospitality areas on the night of various England games in Qatar. UK Police officers on duty in Qatar during the World Cup also submitted photographs to Merseyside Police of O’Brien in Qatar.
O’Brien was arrested and at Sefton Magistrates’ Court on 26 April 2023, he pleaded guilty to defying a football banning order and was jailed for 12 weeks. District Judge Hatton said that O’Brien’s offending was so flagrant that only a custodial sentence would be sufficient.
Senior District Crown Prosecutor Angela Conlan, of CPS Mersey Cheshire, said: “It is clear that neither a football banning order or a fine would be enough to make a persistent offender like O’Brien change his ways. He is now behind bars.
“He was subject to a football banning order for operating as a ticket tout outside football grounds in Liverpool. He was asked to surrender his passport while the World Cup was on. Not only did he lie to get out of this obligation, he went to Qatar and carried on his ticket touting there.
“The Crown Prosecution Service would like to thank Merseyside Police and the officers on duty in Qatar for their help in bringing this man to justice.”
Douglas Mackay, the CPS national football lead, said: “Football banning orders are one of the many tools available to the justice system for imposition on offenders who are convicted of crimes related to our national game and we take a zero tolerance to those who try to flout them.
“The CPS continues to play a crucial role in tackling these crimes and making our national game inclusive, safe to watch and play in. There is no place for ticket touting in football which spoils the game for genuine fans and likely feeds into further criminal activity, and incidents such as these have a significant negative impact on victims. We will continue to work closely with the police, football authorities and fan groups to stamp this out.”