Hong Kong leader urges Messi match organiser to disclose deal with Inter Miami, address

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said Tatler Asia should further explain to the fans what had happened, including its relationship with Inter Miami, whether it was also misled and also follow up with the club and attendees.

He said when approving sponsorship for events with “M” mark status – a major sporting event eligible for official backing and funding – the government did not review the contracts as they might involve “sensitive business information”.

“We do not need to know every single detail under normal circumstances. We only need to make sure the organiser is able to hold the event and we can provide assistance to them,” he told a radio programme.

“In terms of these mega-events, the bureau’s role is to promote the activities, coordinate and assist the organisers to organise the events to achieve the best outcome.”

The government had to respect the working relationship between the organiser and the football club, he added.

Yeung said authorities were more stringent when approving applications from organisers with less experience in hosting large-scale events.

“But if we reject applications from less experienced organisers, there will never be newcomers in the sector,” he said. “It appears that the organiser was able to hold a tournament itself, but the biggest issue is that Messi did not play.”

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.

Gilly Wong Fung-han, chief executive of the council, said the average amount of money involved in each case was HK$6,566, with HK$22,690 being the highest sum.

She said some tourists wanted the compensation to cover their flights, high-speed rail tickets and hotel fees, while others had asked for the organisers to publicly explain and apologise for the matter.

“Organisers should all learn a lesson from this. When they are promoting their events, they should clearly explain the restrictions in the contract and possible risks,” she told the same programme.

“For example, for mega sports events or concerts, if there are risks that the performers will not be able to perform, they should make this clear to the consumers to allow them to make an informed decision.”

Wong noted there were many past examples of good responses from event organisers after unexpected incidents, adding that Tatler Asia should come up with ways to compensate fans and calm their emotions.

Attendees should keep their receipts and transaction records in case compensation was offered, she added.

Legislator Doreen Kong Yuk-foon said her review of Tatler Asia’s promotional material found that it never said Messi would play.

“It only said Messi is among the football legends heading to Hong Kong, which is true,” she said. “On Dec 15, Tatler Asia said the football team was captained by Messi and many other stars. It skilfully said the team, not Messi, would play against the Hong Kong team.”

But Kong said Klook, the agency that sold the tickets, had mentioned that attendees could appreciate Messi’s football skills at the event. She urged customs and the Consumer Council to investigate why such comments were made.

This article was first published on SCMP.

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