GuardianITV has announced the sacking of its World Cup pundit Robbie Earle after discovering he had passed scores of tickets to a third party in breach of Fifa rules, which were then said to be used by a Dutch beer company for an ambush marketing effort.
ITV, which has already suffered a welter of negative publicity after 1.5m viewers missed England's opening goal against the USA due to a technical issue with its high definition channel, said Earle's contract had been terminated "with immediate effect".
"Following claims by Fifa that official 2010 World Cup tickets may have been used for ambush marketing, ITV has reviewed its entire ticket allocation for the tournament," said ITV in a statement.
"Immediate investigations indicated that a block of ITV tickets would appear to have been used for unauthorised purposes during the Holland v Denmark match," it added.
"Further enquiries have revealed that a substantial number of tickets allocated to Robbie Earle for family and friends have been passed to a third party in breach of Fifa rules."
It is understood that between 35 and 40 tickets allocated to Earle ended up in the hands of the marketing company said to have orchestrated the ambush marketing effort on behalf of the beer brand Bavaria via a third party.
Thirty-six women in orange mini dresses were ejected from Soccer City during yesterday's match when Fifa officials decreed they were part of an organised ambush marketing scheme. They were questioned for several hours until after the match had finished. Bavaria denied the women had any links to its campaign.
Although ITV's coverage of England's draw with the USA peaked at more than 20m viewers, the post-match coverage was dominated by the error at Technicolor's London transmission centre that meant 1.5m viewers missed Steven Gerrard's opening goal.
It is not believed that Earle will be replaced by a new pundit but that his absence will be covered by the existing team.
A spokesman for Earle's agent said there was no comment at this stage.
So every ITV pundit has 35-40 tickets for 'family members and friends' for each match? The pundits must have paid a fortune to get them all out to South Africa... <)
More seriously, it's a bit of a disgrace that so many 'hospitality' tickets are taken out of the game. It's as bad as the Champion's League allocations for tickets.