England fans have had their World Cup dreams shattered after the company that arranged their trip to South Africa mysteriously collapsed.
Police are investigating a complaint against Brighton-based BYT (UK) Limited after a supporter contacted them to say he and four friends shelled out more than £3,000 for a two-week trip to watch the qualification stages in June.
Mark Ashton said he became concerned when the company was unable to provide any invoices for their flights and accommodation.
Their worst fears came true when the party received an email saying it was from company director Deborah Confalone, which read: “Due to unforseen circumstances BYT UK is going into liquidation and the matter is currently in the hands of our Accountants.
“Apologies for any inconvenience caused.”
Another England fan left heartbroken by the collapse was a reader of The Argus who won our competition to win a World Cup trip that we had arranged in good faith with BYT.
Meanwhile, further investigation by The Argus has raised several questions about the company's activities.
According to Companies House, BYT was set up by Deborah Angela Parsonage and Pietro Confalone who both live in Worthing, in March.
Its registered office is given as 22 Brighton Square but when The Argus visited yesterday it emerged that the address has been home to an unconnected property company since 2001.
A woman based there said she had never heard of BYT.
There is also no record on Companies House of BYT going into liquidation or administration.
The company's sophisticated website – www.bytworldcup2010.com – was still running last night and offering World Cup tickets and packages.
BYT claims to belong to ATOL, the consumer body that protect holidaymaker's rights in case of bankruptcy.
However, when The Argus followed up the ATOL number published on the website it gave the details of LSR Sports Limited, a travel company based in Epsom, Surrey.
Once again they said they had no knowledge of BYT, with a spokesman saying: “This is completely news to us.”
According to LSR Sports, FIFA only uses five official travel companies: Thomas Cook Sport, Thomson Sport (UK) Ltd, Keith Prowse, BAC Sport Ltd and Emirates Tours UK.
Occasionally these organisations deal with third parties such as LSR to arrange packages but there is no evidence on BYT's website of an official arrangement with FIFA.
Mr Ashton, who paid £3,150 to BYT through online payment provider Paypal, doubts he or his friends will ever see the money again.
He said: “We are all now devastated that those dreams have been shattered. Personally I paid over 45 days ago so will not get my money back from Paypal due to their rules.”
The Argus travelled to the Worthing homes of both Ms Parsonage and Mr Confalone, who are listed as the only directors of BYT, but no one answered at either address.
A spokeswoman for Sussex Police confirmed BYT was under investigation.
She said: “Sussex Police are to investigate a web-based company following complaints from several members of the public who bought tickets for the FIFA World Cup from them.
“The company has been offering tickets for the football world cup in June, however it appears it has recently ceased trading and is unable to supply the tickets.”
Have you lost your World Cup cash? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01273 544545.