Lionel Messi no-show: Hong Kong Inter Miami match organiser promises 50% refund by mid-March to disappointed fans

Lionel Messi no-show: Hong Kong Inter Miami match organiser promises 50% refund by mid-March to disappointed fans

Disappointed fans of Lionel Messi who paid to watch the Argentinian football star in action in Hong Kong but were left angry when he missed the game entirely will be given a 50 per cent refund on tickets, organiser Tatler Asia has said.

In a statement released after Tatler Asia reportedly met government officials on Friday morning, the media company said details of the refund would be released before mid-March but it would only apply to tickets bought through official channels.

The organiser also apologised to all the fans who were left disappointed by the episode, which it said it had hoped would “become the pride of Hong Kong”.

“We will not evade our responsibilities as an organiser, so Tatler Asia will provide a 50 per cent refund to the public who purchased match day tickets through official channels,” it said.

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A damaged paper model of Lionel Messi. Organiser Tatler Asia has offered a 50 per cent refund to attendees after mounting pressure. Photo: AP

Authorities said they welcomed the arrangement.

“The government welcomes the relevant decision and believes that the compensation plan of the organiser Tatler Asia is a responsible approach and shows its positive and responsible attitude,” it said.

“According to the relevant game accounts disclosed by the organiser … Tatler Asia has made its best efforts and [shown] sincerity [by arranging] a refund of 50 per cent of the ticket price in response to the demands of all sectors of society.”

But authorities said they understood the public still had “many questions” regarding Messi’s absence on the pitch in Hong Kong, especially since the player became “active and conducted intense exercise” just three days later in Japan.

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“The government hopes that Inter Miami CF will eventually provide a reasonable explanation to Hong Kong people, and the fans who came to Hong Kong to watch the game.”

Tatler Asia has been under increasing pressure to account for the absence of the World Cup winner, and Inter Miami teammate Luis Suarez, from last weekend’s game. In the lengthy statement, it said it was “just as heartbroken as everyone else” over the fact the pair missed the game.

Highlighting the fact it had “invested millions of dollars and put in months of hard work” to bring the team to Hong Kong, Tatler Asia said seeing them play in Japan “made us feel like we were slapped again”.

‘It was bad luck’: Messi breaks silence after no-show in Hong Kong game

According to Tatler, it made HK$156.9 million (US$20 million) from ticket sales, merchandising, sponsorship and advertising, but spent HK$143.9 million on appearance fees, renting the stadium, accommodation and travel, and various other associated expenses.

The net income of HK$13 million equated to an 8 per cent profit margin, but refunds were projected to cost HK$56 million.

Sources previously told the Post that Tatler Asia had paid Inter Miami almost US$7 million to make the trip.

On Thursday, lawmaker Bill Tang Ka-piu delivered an ultimatum outside the Small Claims Tribunal in West Kowloon, saying that more than a dozen people were ready to file their claims if Tatler Asia did not explain within a week why Messi stayed on the bench and offer refunds to those who paid more than HK$3,000 each for tickets.

As of Friday 2pm, the city’s consumer watchdog logged 1,038 complaints linked to ticket sales for the match, including 265 from tourists. Claims have snowballed to about HK$8.9 million.

Disappointment over the game has prompted a review of authorities’ system that offers organisers of large-scale sports events extra funding and logistics support.

Sports minister Kevin Yeung Yun-hung also said the government had never seen the details of the contract between the organiser and Inter Miami, despite an understanding that Messi would play for 45 minutes unless he was injured.

Additional reporting by Olga Wong

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