Messi match organiser Tatler urged by Hong Kong’s John Lee to disclose deal with Inter Miami, address demands of fans

Messi match organiser Tatler urged by Hong Kong’s John Lee to disclose deal with Inter Miami, address demands of fans

Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday urged the organiser of Inter Miami’s preseason friendly to disclose details of its deal with the US football club and address the demands of disappointed fans after superstar Lionel Messi sat out the game despite officials’ advice.

Spectators, many of whom had spent large sums to watch Messi in action, booed and chanted “refund” after the Argentinian star did not play at all in Sunday’s match against a Hong Kong XI. The city’s consumer watchdog has received more than 200 complaints.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, who was among the nearly 40,000 spectators at the much-hyped match at Hong Kong Stadium, said authorities would continue to follow up on the incident even after the organiser, Tatler Asia, withdrew an application for HK$16 million in government sponsorship.



How Lionel Messi’s Hong Kong visit went from cheers to jeers and anger

How Lionel Messi’s Hong Kong visit went from cheers to jeers and anger

“It is, of course, very undesirable and extremely disappointing for this to happen in such a way that the public expectation of Messi showing up and playing in the match did not materialise,” Lee said on Tuesday before the weekly Executive Council meeting.

“We will keep on urging the organiser to explain to the public in detail what actually happened, what were the details of the agreement between them and the [Inter Miami] team, and also why, in the course of the communication of the government, despite all the suggestions and demands made by the government, nothing materialised.”

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi waves to fans in Hong Kong but played no part in Sunday’s game. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lee said suggestions made by officials during the match included having Messi – whose appearance on the pitch was heavily promoted before the game – address the fans in person to explain why he was unable to play.

“It is their responsibility to explain and also to answer to the demands of those who bought tickets. And it is also their responsibility to answer to the disappointment of all the audience there, in particular those young children, who were there with full passion and hope,” Lee said.

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The Consumer Council said that as of Tuesday morning it had received 245 complaints related to the match, including 31 from visitors, involving a total sum of about HK$1.6 million.

The chief executive maintained that the fiasco would not deter the government from promoting and organising large-scale events as they were important for the city’s image and competitiveness, but authorities would carry out a careful review to optimise future arrangements.

Chief Executive John Lee says Hong Kong overall interests will be protected in future. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

“We will in due course also ensure that we have the right mechanism in place to ensure that if public money is spent, events will be properly scrutinised,” Lee said, adding that there would be a “good supervisory system” to ensure Hong Kong’s overall interests would be well protected.

He suggested there would be more explicit provisions in future contracts with event organisers to meet government requirements, while ensuring good, accurate and timely information would be disseminated by organisers to enable participants to make their own choice.

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Tatler Asia had said it had always expected Messi and teammate Luis Suarez to take to the field at some point in the match until it was only told by Inter Miami management at halftime that Messi could not play because of an injury.

Michel Lamuniere, chairman and CEO of Tatler Asia, made no mention of refunds for fans when he spoke to the press on Monday in the wake of the fury.

Miami beat the Hong Kong select team 4-1.



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