February 7, 2024
HONG KONG – In the wake of the no-show fiasco on Sunday when football superstar Lionel Messi infuriated fans by failing to take to the pitch, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said in future the Hong Kong government will put down clear instructions in black and white for event organizers, including requesting them to draw up back-up plans in advance.
Lee said that he was just as disappointed as the 40,000 spectators who had paid between HK$880 and HK$4,880 for a ticket to the widely touted friendly match between Hong Kong and Inter Miami CF.
Although the organizer, Tatler Asia — a glossy magazine publisher — has withdrawn the “M” events status and its application for HK$16 million in government sponsorship, it still has responsibilities to respond to the demands of the fans who were badly let down.
By Tuesday morning, the city’s consumer watchdog reported 245 complaints over the saga, with a total of HK$1.6 million involved. Among the complaints, 214 came from local residents and 31 from travelers. The highest amount involved for a single case was HK$22,690.
The government will keep requesting Tatler Asia to give a clear explanation of what happened, Lee said.
On Sunday, Messi, who was by contract required to play for 45 minutes at the match, sat on the bench for the whole game due to a reported injury.
Tatler Asia had said Messi would play in the second half of the game, but only informed the HKSAR government, which had agreed to sponsor the event for a total of HK$16 million, that Messi would not be able to play 10 minutes before the match ended. The government’s alternative proposal of getting the Argentine soccer legend to address the disappointed fans also met with no success.
Lee pointed out that the government had done a lot of coordination work in promoting the event, and the organizer’s performance had a close influence on the reputation of Hong Kong. He said that the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau (CSTB) had worked hard to resolve the problems of the organizer, with the participation of different government departments.
He said that he had asked the CSTB and the Major Sports Events Committee to review this incident, and the responsibilities and requirements for assisting major events in the future, for example, such as requiring the organizers to draw up and provide back-up plans in advance.
Lee said that he was just as disappointed as the 40,000 spectators who had paid between HK$880 and HK$4,880 (US$113 and US$624) for a ticket to the widely touted friendly match between Hong Kong and Inter Miami CF.
Lee emphasized that organizing mega events has direct value to Hong Kong, including promoting economic activities and international competitiveness. Thus, in this highly competitive environment, the city must continue promoting events, while seriously reviewing and establishing a better mechanism for the application of “M” mark events and funding.