MLS club sued for using Lionel Messi to promote expensive tickets only for Argentine superstar not to play

Lionel Messi has communicated his future plans after Inter Miami (Imago)

MLS club sued for using Lionel Messi to promote expensive tickets only for Argentine superstar not to play

Joel Omotto 13:32 - 09.06.2024

MLS club Vancouver Whitecaps is facing a suit from a section of its fans who were disappointed that Lionel Messi did not play in a game they bought pricey tickets to watch him.

A Vancouver Whitecaps fan has initiated legal action against the club after soccer legend Lionel Messi did not play in a highly-anticipated match between the Whitecaps and Inter Miami.

The fan, Ho Chun, filed a notice of a civil claim in the B.C. Supreme Court, accusing the Whitecaps of "misleading" advertising that he claims amounted to a "bait-and-switch."

Chun is seeking a partial refund for fans who paid inflated prices to see Messi, who is considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Chun paid $202 (Ksh26,532) per ticket and is requesting the difference between the price of tickets for the Miami game and the standard price for Whitecaps tickets. He also wants a full refund for unused tickets and a process for fans to claim additional losses or damages.

The Whitecaps heavily marketed Messi's appearance, and CEO Axel Schuster, along with other club officials, expressed excitement about his visit in multiple interviews. This promotion led to a surge in ticket sales, particularly in the resale market, where prices skyrocketed.

However, Messi did not travel with Inter Miami for the game, a decision made by Miami's head coach, Tata Martino, 48 hours before the match. The trip from Miami to Vancouver is one of the longest in MLS, and Martino decided it was not in Messi's best interest to make the journey for one regular-season game out of 34.

In response to the no-show, Schuster acknowledged the disappointment but stressed that the Whitecaps had no control over the opposing team's lineup. The club attempted to mitigate the fallout by offering half-price food and drink, free meal combos for kids, and a free ticket to a future game to those who attended the match.

Despite these efforts, the ill-feeling among fans persists. Over 2,800 Whitecaps supporters have signed a petition demanding refunds.

The lawsuit's proposal for a class-action suit claims that the Whitecaps and MLS should have known that Messi, along with other star players like Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, might not play and were negligent in confirming their participation.

The outcome of the lawsuit remains to be seen, but it highlights the risks and expectations tied to promoting star athletes' appearances in sports events.

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