By Kristy Dorsey

Anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance has welcomed intervention by the UK competition watchdog that could see Viagogo forced to sell all or part of its newly-acquired rival StubHub.

Viagogo completed its controversial $4 billion (£3.2bn) acquisition of StubHub in February, having pushed ahead despite a warning from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). The regulator has now provisionally blocked the deal, with Viagogo given until November 12 to further argue its case.

Explaining its decision following a n in-depth “Phase 2” investigation launched in June, the CMA noted that the combined group would have more than a 90 per cent share of the UK’s secondary ticketing market. Stuart McIntosh, chair of the CMA inquiry group, said the evidence seen so far “consistently points in the same direction”.

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“We are therefore concerned that their merger could lead to secondary ticketing customers facing higher fees and lower and lower quality services,” he said. “We’re now inviting comments on our provisional findings and possible remedies.”

Set up in 2016, FanFair Alliance is backed by managers of some of the leading names in music, such as Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, PJ Harvey, the Arctic Monkeys, Royal Blood and Alison Moyet, as well as Scotland’s Travis. Its aim is to curb industrial scale touting in the secondary ticketing market.

“Though poorly-timed and focused predominantly on the US market, Viagogo’s $4.05bn acquisition of StubHub raises acute competition concerns in the UK,” the group said in a statement. “We are pleased the CMA has recognised this.

“Ultimately, the merger would bestow a hugely controversial business monopoly status in this country, and risk unpicking some significant progress made over recent years to clean up the secondary ticketing market.”

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Viagogo founder Eric Baker also co-founded StubHub, the US market leader, but was forced out after falling out with partner Jeff Fluhr. Mr Baker then moved to London where he set up Viagogo to replicate StubHub’s US success in the European market.

His deal to reunite the two companies completed just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the global live events business from which the firms make all of their money. This led to it being described as “the worst deal ever” by US business magazine Forbes.

A final decision from the CMA is due by December 9.