Debbie Jevans, CEO of England Rugby 2015, issued a warning this week that unscrupulous ticket touts threaten to wreck the World Cup unless government legislation to prevent secondary ticketing is implemented.
Such legislation was in place for the London Olympics, where Jevans worked previously as director of sport, and was largely successful.
Unsurprisingly, Jevans wants similar measures in place to keep touts away from RWC 2015, where ticket prices will range from £7 to £715. She justifies the eye-popping top prices as subsidising lower priced tickets and thus making the tournament "accessible" and "affordable" for genuine rugby fans. Affordability is in the eye of the beholder, and Jevans has a fat bonus riding on her getting it right.
Luckily for her, the English have deeper pockets than they like to admit when it comes to big sporting occasions, and there will be no shortage of overseas applicants for the business end of the World Cup. Finding the balance between pricing one-sided pool matches cheap enough to attract new rugby followers, and not alienating genuine rugby folk with extortionate prices for the knock-out stage tickets won't be easy.
The cheapest tickets will be for the less attractive pool matches. Come the knockout stages, expect to be fleeced for as much as the market will stand. The problem is knowing which teams will be in which quarter-finals and semi-finals. South Africa and New Zealand should be confident of winning Pools B and C respectively, while Pool D is tighter with France, Ireland and Italy competing for two quarter-final places.
Pool A pitches England, Wales and Australia against each other; one of those teams faces the humiliation of not reaching the quarter-finals; their fans will have tickets for sale.
Which quarter-finals the others reach is anyone's guess. When the Pool matches conclude on October 10, there will have to be much trading and swapping of tickets in the week before the start of the knock-out matches. Having a ticket worth several hundred quid for the wrong match simply won't do. Rugby supporters will move heaven and earth to watch their teams. Remember how Munster's fans hijacked last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final at Harlequins.
Whatever Ms Jevans does to eliminate touts, she will never stop tickets changing hands in the pubs, on the streets and on websites as the knock-out matches approach. The structure of the tournament is not the same as the Olympics and demands a facility for legitimate exchange and trading of tickets for the last eight matches. All the more so when the price of a ticket is sky high.
So far, RWC 2015 has failed to propose any legitimate and workable alternative to a necessary black market developing. No amount of noise about hammering touts will prevent such trading unless RWC 2015 finds a solution.
Richard Seeckts' rugby career consisted of one school match where he froze on the wing and despite no substitutes being available he was withdrawn from the game at half-time for mocking the opposition's line-out calls. Thereafter Richard and the sport agreed active participation was not the way ahead, but that has not prevented him from avidly writing about and watching the game. He now contributes his random observations to the Crooked Feed blog on ESPNscrum.com