Football fans across the globe scrambling to buy World Cup 2018 tickets will be astonished to discover that an entire set of tickets from the Euro 96 football championships have just been found in an old suitcase – unused.
Already, tickets for the World Cup in Russia this summer are said to be selling for 40 times their face value, such is the international passion for the beautiful game.
But back in June, 1996, when England hosted the UEFA European Football Championship, a set of 31 tickets for every match in the tournament through to the final went begging.
And no-one knows how or why it happened.
Games were played all over the country including Manchester, Sheffield and Nottingham.
The tickets unearthed by accident, were taken along for free valuation at Hansons Auctioneers in Etwall, near Derby.
The owner, from Stoke, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “I have no idea where the tickets have come from. It’s a complete mystery.
“They were in a case that housed my grandad’s old cigarette cards. My mum had the case for years and then gave it to me about 10 years ago. It was actually the cigarette cards that I took along for valuation.
“We were just looking through the cards with the valuer when the tickets got in the way and he pulled them out. He said they might be worth something. Until that second, I had no idea they were anything special. I’d never given them a second glance.
“I’m not interested in football and don’t support a team and nor is anyone in my family. My mum, who died last year at the age of 90, certainly wasn’t interested in football.
“I have no idea how they ended up in the suitcase. I don’t think my mum was a ticket tout.
“The only thing I can think of is that she picked up the tickets by accident at a car boot sale, table top sale or spring fair as she used to be involved in things like that. Because she wasn’t interested in football, she probably thought they were worthless. We all did. That’s why they’ve been in a case for 22 years.”
The 31 tickets are in pristine condition, still fastened together and cover the entire tournament - which Germany won. They beat the Czech Republic 2–1 in the final with a golden goal during extra time.
They range in price from £45 for the first games in the tournament to £130 for the final at Wembley and also include the quarter and semi-final matches. Bought as a complete package they would have cost £1,680.
For example, there’s an opening ceremony ticket for England v Switzerland on June 8 which was a 1-1 draw and the ticket for Italy v Russia on June 11 which Italy won 2-1. The quarter, semi and Euro 96 final tickets simply state which game they were and the grounds used.
Alistair Lofley, football valuer at Hansons Auctioneers, said: “I have seen the odd ticket from Euro 96 before but never an entire set like this. It’s a mystery. All the tickets are printed with the name Ben Edwards.
Perhaps they were a competition prize or given to a member of the FA.
“Some of the matches were played on the same day so it would have been logistically impossible to go to them all, unless they were bought to share with friends.
“For any diehard football fan, to think of these tickets going begging is hard to swallow – an entire tournament of matches in England that someone could have watched. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. I’m not saying people would have paid 40 times their face value for them but we all know dedicated football fans will go to extreme lengths to see a game.
“We have been carrying out research on them and, at this stage, they appear genuine. Football ticket stubs from important games are collectors’ items and this set is sure to appeal. I have put an estimate of £100-£150 on them.”
The Euro 96 tickets will be sold on May 23 at a Sporting Memorabilia Auction at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire. Entries welcome until May 4. To find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01283 733988.