Eurovision 2023: How touts jumped online queue to relist tickets for thousands of pounds

Ticket touts managed to beat the system while the rest of us waited patientl in online queues?

Last week, thousands of Eurovision fans across the world rushed to get their hands on tickets to the song contest’s Grand Final in Liverpool. But, it quickly became apparent that something unusual was afoot.

As swathes of soon-to-be-disappointed fans waited patiently in online queues in the official sale, tickets had already begun to appear on reselling sites for astronomical prices.

What happened during the ticket sale?

Tickets were released on Ticketmaster at 12:00pm on Tuesday, 7 March, and people across the world faced huge queues after waiting in the online ‘lobby’ hours before the sale. Fans needed to be registered before making a purchase, and could only buy tickets for one show at a time.

There were nine shows on offer, including six previews, the semi-finals and The Grand Final at the 11,000 capacity M&S Bank Arena on Saturday, 13 May.

Many fans found themselves ‘kicked out’ of the Ticketmaster site due to demand, and faced error messages, resulting in them not being able to buy tickets.

Despite the disappointment many fans faced, there’s also widespread anger as resellers have been seen attempting to flog tickets for almost £12,000.

A frustrated Eurovision fan shared a screenshot of Eurovision tickets on Viagogo being sold for a whopping £11,800, despite Ticketmaster stating tickets can only be resold at face value. Tickets were originally sold for £30 to £290 for a semi-final show, and for the grand final, from £80 to £380.

Facebook user shares screenshot of Eurovision tickets on Viagogo site.
Facebook user shares screenshot of Eurovision tickets on Viagogo site.
Facebook user shares screenshot of Eurovision tickets on Viagogo site.

According to an investigation by BBC’s You and Yours, 6,000 tickets for the grand final sold out within 36 minutes and around 64,000 tickets for rehearsals and semi-finals sold out within an hour.

Ticketmaster stated that ‘a very small number of fans experienced issues accessing the queue’ but how do these ticket touts manage to get tickets when regular folk, who waited in Ticketmaster’s online waiting rooms for hours, are out of luck?

Queue jumping software

New technology allows ticket touts to place thousands of ‘bots’ - software pretending to be real people - in the queue. These bots are then recognised by the waiting room as real people and places them in front of genuine fans, massively decreasing their chances of successfully buying tickets.

As soon as tickets were released many Eurovision fans shared screenshots of the queue which stated that 2,000 people or more were ahead of them in the queue, despite these fans joining the waiting room multiple hours before the release. It is likely that a large number of these ‘people’ were bots.

There are a large number of groups using bot software, including The Golden Circle, which gives users guidance to using a computing code for manipulating ticketing systems - for £99 a month.

It is illegal to use bots to buy more tickets than the promoter or venue allows, however, the Golden Circle purchases small numbers of tickets in multiple transactions, creating a grey area in the law.

What is being done?

Matthew Gracey-McMinn, who works for anti-bot company Netacea, told the BBC that there are so many groups using queue jumping software, that it is impossible to track them all.

The Digital Economy Act of 2017 states that it is illegal to use software to buy more than the ticket limit allowed by the promoter or venue, but the grey area around buying small numbers of tickets in multiple transactions, means there is no clear answer on the legality of what ticket touts are doing.