If you’ve gone to an Olympic event over the past 22 years, Visa was everywhere you wanted to be. And everywhere you didn’t want to be. In fact, thanks to a contract between Visa and the International Olympic Committee, Visa has been the only credit or debit card allowed at the Olympics since the Seoul games in 1988. But Britain may challenge the exclusivity in the run up to the 2012 games.
Britain’s Office of Fair Trading has released a statement that “the OFT and the European Commission are aware of these issues and are currently in discussion about what action, if any, should be taken.” Consumer advocates say that doesn’t go far enough:
Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of the consumers’ association, Which? said: “We think it’s outrageous that some UK sports fans should be discriminated against in this way.
“We want the London 2012 Committee to take steps to ensure there’s a level playing field and that UK consumers have equal access to the Games, whether or not they are Visa cardholders.”
A spokesman for the Games dismissed the concerns: “Visa has been a top partner for 24 years, so this is not new,” the London 2012 Committee said in a statement.
While it seems unlikely that Visa’s house of cards can be knocked down prior to the 2012 Games, there is some precedent. In 2006, the EU stepped in to override an exclusive deal between FIFA and Mastercard over World Cup tickets, eventually getting the soccer association to allow other forms of payment.