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Lionel Messi (centre) and his team, Inter Miami, take part in a training session in Japan on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong watchdog called in to tidy up Messi affair after receiving 629 complaints seeking HK$4.15 million in refunds over footballer’s absence

  • Consumer Council says highest amount linked to a single complaint stands at about HK$24,000 over Argentinian footballer’s absence from match on Sunday
  • Most complaints came from local residents, watchdog chief executives says, as customers waits for match organiser Tatler Asia to respond to mediation requests
Wynna Wong
Hong Kong’s Consumer Council has received more than 600 complaints over football superstar Lionel Messi’s decision to sit out a recent high-profile match, as the watchdog waited for the event’s organiser to respond to mediation requests from customers.

The watchdog said it was handling 629 complaints, as of Wednesday morning, linked to ticket sales from Sunday’s friendly between Inter Miami and Hong Kong XI, with the claims involving about HK$4.15 million in total.

The highest amount linked to a single complaint stood at HK$24,224, while the funds involved per case averaged HK$6,599, the watchdog said. Most of the reports, 527, came from local residents.

“Locals also tended to spend more than tourists on average, probably because the entire family went together,” Gilly Wong Fung-han, the council’s chief executive, told a radio programme on Wednesday.

“By looking at the amount for each case … you can really tell consumers were quite willing to spend for this football match.”

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Wong also said the council was still waiting for match organiser Tatler Asia to respond to mediation requests from customers, adding that the watchdog had reached out to the luxury lifestyle platform on Tuesday.

The watchdog said it was also in the process of contacting complainants to get more details on their cases and reminded those filing reports to provide copies of their ticket receipts.

Messi appeared prominently in Tatler’s advertising for the highly anticipated match, leaving many fans disappointed after he sat out of the game and barely interacted with spectators at the event.

While Inter Miami had said the Argentina footballer was injured in the run-up to the game, his absence prompted calls for refunds and attracted the ire of the Hong Kong government.

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Tatler later said it would not accept HK$16 million in government funds previously offered to support the mega event.

Messi on Tuesday broke his silence over the incident at a press conference in Tokyo, the next leg of his team’s tour, calling it “a shame” that a thigh muscle injury had prevented him from playing in Hong Kong and he hoped to return “whenever he can”.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu, who was among the nearly 40,000 spectators at Sunday’s match at Hong Kong Stadium, has described the incident as very undesirable and extremely disappointing for fans who hoped to see Messi take to the pitch.

Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, the vice-president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee and a lawmaker, urged Tatler to respect fans after he learned the platform had promoted photo opportunities with the footballer for HK$150,000 per person.

The offer, combined with Messi’s extensive use in marketing for the match, gave the public the impression that the organiser was attempting to maximise its income.

The Post has reached out to Tatler Asia for comment.