By Nick Butler

Match Hospitality chief executive Ray Whelan has been arrested in Rio ©TwitterMatch Hospitality chief executive Ray Whelan has been arrested by Brazilian police as their investigation into ticketing scams during the FIFA World Cup intensifies.


Whelan, a former agent for Sir Bobby Charlton, was arrested at the Copacabana Palace Hotel, where FIFA President Sepp Blatter and his senior colleagues are staying.

It followed various reports the scam was operating out of the hotel. 

The Briton was held overnight and is now receiving consular assistance from the UK Foreign Office. 

It was confirmed this afternoon that Whelan has been released from police custody and will assist the police with further enquiries.

A statement from Match insisted they have "complete faith that the facts will establish that he has not violated any laws", and that they will "continue to fully support all police investigations", which they "firmly believe will fully exonerate Whelan".

It added: "In the meantime, Ray Whelan, as well as the rest of the Match personnel will continue to work on our operational areas of responsibility in order to deliver a successful 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil".

Security is tight in Rio around the Copacabana Palace Hotel where senior FIFA officials are staying, following the arrest of Ray Whelan ©AFP/Getty ImagesSecurity is tight in Rio around the Copacabana Palace Hotel where senior FIFA officials are staying, following the arrest of Ray Whelan ©AFP/Getty Images





The arrest followed the news earlier in the week that police were investigating links between Match and a French-Algerian named Mamadou Fofana, thought to be a leading figure within the ticketing scam.

The Zurich-based company have since admitted FIFA ordered them to open an internal investigation to ascertain how the tickets ended up in the hands of Fofana and his group.

With Match Hospitality the company appointed by FIFA as the worldwide exclusive rights
holder of its hospitality programme, the arrest also represents a blow for the world governing body.

Match has been involved with FIFA since 1986 and has the exclusive contract to provide hospitality packages until 2023, as well as other services including accommodation.

In a statement yesterday, Match claimed it had sold approximately 105 of 290,000 Hospitality Packages to Fofana's Dubai-based Atlanta Sportif, who accepted hospitality sales regulations which included a strict prohibition to resell any of the hospitality packages.

Based on the "breach of its contractual obligations evidenced by police media statements and arrest of Lamine Fofana", all hospitality packages purchased by the company for the remaining matches have been cancelled, it added.

Humberto Grondona, the son of FIFA senior vice-president Julio Grondona, has also been implicated in the scandal, after a ticket in his name was found by police ©TwitterHumberto Grondona, the son of FIFA senior vice-president Julio Grondona, has also been implicated in the scandal, after a ticket in his name was found by police ©Twitter



This all comes after raids were staged by police in both Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo last week, leading to 11 arrests including that of Fofana, as well as the seizure of World Cup tickets, foreign currency, passports and mobile phones.

Police did not notify FIFA or Match about the investigation, named Operacao Jules Rimet after the former FIFA President and after who the World Cup trophy is also named, for reasons of confidentiality, although a FIFA spokesperson has insisted no member of FIFA staff or executive level member has been contacted in connection with the inquiry.

In a statement, FIFA said it "continues to fully collaborate with the local authorities and will provide any details requested to assist with this ongoing investigation".

The statement added: "FIFA wants to reiterate as mentioned at various occasions its firm stance against any form of violation of the criminal law and the ticketing regulations, and is fully supporting the security authorities in our joint efforts to clamp down on any unauthorised ticket sales."

Humberto Grondona, son of FIFA senior vice-president Julio Grondona, has been also asked to explain his actions after a ticket in his name was found by police investigating the scam.

Grondona, a FIFA coaching instructor and Argentina youth team manager, admitted he had bought tickets before passing them onto friends, but insisted he had no further knowledge of what had happened to them, and has denied selling them to touts.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]


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