Belgium Looks At ‘Sherman’ Law

Economics minister Vincent Van Quickenborne may have jokingly nicknamed it “The Herman Sherman Law,” but the Belgian government is taking a serious look at the country’s major promoter’s proposals for tackling ticket scalpers.

Taking its moniker from Live Nation Belgium chief and Rock Werchter promoter Herman Schueremans, who’s also a liberal democrat MP in the Flemish parliament, the anti-tout bill has cross-party support.

It would make it illegal to resell a ticket for more than 10 percent of face value as well as forbid the resale of any tickets before the official onsale date.

It’s much further than any lobbying body has managed to take any government along the road toward legislating against the secondary market.

The bill, which is expected to come before the Belgian federal parliament in the fall, would also empower the courts to punish secondary sellers who charge excessive prices with jail sentences of up to a year and fines up to euro 10,000. They could also be forced to refund any of the excess profits they’d made.

Groundwork for the bill began in 2006 when Schueremans reached a tacit handshake deal with the Belgian government that they’d work together to stamp out profiteering touts.

It wasn’t much more than a verbal commitment to work together within the framework of existing Belgian law and the national press referred to it as “a gentlemen’s agreement.” But it led to front-page warnings about the dangers of buying from touts in such influential papers as Flanders regional De Standaard.

It was also quite effective and helped LN director Yo Van Saet and Stefan Esselens of the Antwerp-based Tele Ticket Service force touts to hand out cash refunds outside the venue for shows by Shakira and Lionel Richie.

Schueremans has now convinced party colleagues including Willem-Frederik Schiltz and Sofie Staelrave, plus Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) including Liesbeth Van der Auwera and Jef Vandenbergh, and Socialist Dalila Douifi that it’s time the handshake agreement should become law. They will all be supporting the bill’s passage in the Belgian parliament.

Van Quickenborne, Schiltz and Vandenbergh voiced their support for the bill on the second day of this year’s 80,000-capacity, sold-out Rock Werchter Festival (July 3).

The festival was the centrepiece of Live Nation’s highly successful summer on the Werchter site, near Leuven, where the Werchter Classic Festival with Depeche Mode did 38,000.

The Werchter Boutique Festival with Madonna sold all 68,000 tickets within a day.