‘Sheer volume of fake tickets’ caused London NYE firework chaos but City Hall unable to say how many

By Staff

The number of ticketholders who missed out on London’s New Year’s Eve firework display remains a mystery after the event was disrupted by people arriving with fake tickets. The sold-out 2023 celebration, which attracted criticism for a 33 per cent rise in the entry price to £20, was marred by crowd management issues, with disappointed ticketholders calling it ‘unsafe’ and ‘disorganised’.

At the time a City Hall spokesperson apologised and told MyLondon: “A number of people arrived at ticket gates with fake tickets and were refused entry.” When we asked for a figure on fake ticket refusals, under Freedom of Information laws, the Greater London Authority (GLA) said it does not hold that information.

Over two months after the event, the GLA was also unable to provide the value of ticket refunds because they ‘are still being verified’. When MyLondon asked the Mayor’s office for an update on the refunds, a spokesperson said: “A number of refunds have been provided but the process is still ongoing so it is not possible to provide figures.”

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City Hall previously quashed rumours the event had been oversold after ticketholders reported comments by event management staff who allegedly told them overselling was the reason they were turned away. MyLondon’s FOI request confirmed that 106,696 tickets were sold, equalling the event’s total capacity, which backs up City Hall’s statement.

After saying ‘the vast majority of more than 100,000 ticket-holders enjoyed the display’, City Hall told MyLondon that 80,000 ticketholders were admitted to the event, 75 per cent of the capacity. However, the Mayor’s office said this was ‘in line with attendance at previous events, with an expected 20–30 per cent of ticketholders who do not attend’.

MyLondon also requested access to documents about queue management and crowd control, but the FOI request was refused under national security grounds in the event terrorists would use the information to plan an attack on future London NYE celebrations.

Asked what action City Hall took to stop the sale of fake tickets, a spokesperson said: “All event communication stated tickets could only be bought via london.gov.uk and that tickets bought from any other source would not be accepted.”

They added: “The GLA worked closely with the ticket provider to ensure the security teams were fully briefed on how to identify fake tickets, ensuring only real ticket holders were permitted access to the event.”

In light of the debacle, deputy leader of City Hall Tories, Emma Best, successfully tabled a motion calling for the fireworks event to be added to the London Assembly Oversight Committee during a plenary meeting on on February 8.

In her motion, Ms Best AM said: “For this year’s event, ticket prices surged by 33 per cent and many people’s evenings ended in disappointment as the Mayor admitted a failure to prepare for and control fake tickets led to long queues and in some cases non-admittance for genuine ticket holders.”

After the motion was passed, with eight votes to three, it means major decisions around pricing, planning and general budgeting will now be scrutinised by the London Assembly. MyLondon understands City Hall will respond to the Assembly motion in due course.

‘Complete shambles’

When MyLondon spoke to ticketholders in the days after the event, they complained of crushing, thefts, and assaults. Jennifer, a teacher from Telford, was turned away after travelling 150 miles for the event with a genuine ticket. On Tuesday this week, nine weeks later, she confirmed she had not received a refund from AXS, the only website authorised to sell genuine tickets.

She was among a number of people who told us she had queued for hours only to be refused entry, and said it was ‘terrifying being trapped in a crowd of angry people’. Other complaints on X, formerly Twitter, included ‘hideous crowd management’, and some party-goers calling the event ‘insanely unsafe’ and a ‘complete shambles’.

The calls for refunds were led by Nikolaj Hansen-Turton, who wrote an open letter to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, describing how his queue moved 100m in two hours before he was advised to go home by police due to a “very unsafe and scary” crowd “rushing and pushing”.

According to an FOI request by CityAM, the total cost of the extravaganza was nearly £4 million, with over 12,000 fireworks used to light up London’s famous skyline. In its response to the paper’s data request, the GLA said the ‘budget available for the event was £3.85m, with additional costs being supported by ticket revenue of £1.75m’.

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‘Vast majority enjoyed themselves’

A spokesperson for the Mayor said: “City Hall worked in close partnership with the Met Police, Transport for London, British Transport Police and event stewarding teams to put on the capital’s spectacular New Year’s Eve celebrations, and the vast majority of the more than 100,000 ticket holders enjoyed themselves.

“Although it was not possible to record the exact number of fake tickets, it was very clear from stewards on the gates that the sheer volume led to delays. City Hall continues to review and improve the event every year, and is working closely with the Met police to tackle the sale of fake tickets.”

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