B.C. soccer fan sues over alleged Lionel Messi ‘bait and switch’

Fan seeks refund on behalf of thousands of fans who expected to see famous players take the pitch

A soccer player wearing pink looks down.

A B.C. soccer fan wants to certify a class-action lawsuit against the Vancouver Whitecaps and Major League Soccer (MLS) on behalf of customers who claim they paid through the nose for tickets to a game featuring Lionel Messi, only to see the superstar player turn out to be a last-minute no-show.

In a notice of civil claim filed Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court, Ho Chun claims he paid $404 for a pair of tickets to a May 25 Whitecaps and Inter Miami CF match which he was led to believe would be headlined by football legends Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets.

No Messi, no problem: Inter Miami defeats slumping Whitecaps

But two days before the game, Chun says event organizers “announced that these famous soccer players would not be attending the game.”

“This is a classic case of bait-and-switch,” the lawsuit says, citing print, online, social media and even billboard advertising promising the trio of top-tier talent.

“Using such promotional materials as ‘bait,’ the defendants caused the tickets for the Vancouver v. Miami game to be listed and sold on the primary market at ten times higher than the price of other Vancouver Whitecaps home games,” the lawsuit claims.
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Several soccer stars — including the legendary Lionel Messi — will not be in Miami’s lineup to face Vancouver in their MLS matchup at B.C. Place on Saturday. As Michelle Morton is finding out, that’s not sitting well with scores of fans who paid a lot of money to see the legend on the pitch.

The case of the missing Messi

The proposed class-action lawsuit comes on the heels of a debacle that has already sparked a widely circulated petition calling for compensation and transparency in relation the case of the missing Messi.

Chun wants to certify a lawsuit on behalf of any individual, “anywhere in the world, that was a holder of a ticket to the Vancouver v. Miami game.”

A promotional poster which appeared on the Vancouver Whitecaps Facebook page in December featured Spanish star Sergio Busquets and Argentinian legend Lionel Messi.
A promotional poster which appeared on the Vancouver Whitecaps Facebook page in December featured Argentine legend Lionel Messi, centre right, and Spanish star Sergio Busquets, far right. But neither player showed up for a game on May 25. (B.C. Supreme Court)

He’s seeking a full refund for tickets that went unused and a partial refund for tickets that were used amounting to the difference between the price charged for the Miami game and the average price for all other Whitecaps games.

The 22-page claim contains copies of game posters and advertisements that appeared as far back as last December on Whitecaps Facebook and Instagram accounts featuring Argentine World Cup winner Messi, Uruguayan striker Suarez and Spanish midfielder Busquets.

Chun claims the Whitecaps and the MLS were “reckless in not confirming that Messi, Suarez, and/or Busquets would be playing at the Vancouver v. Miami game.”

After news broke that Miami would be keeping their top players in Florida due to a busy league schedule, the Whitecaps announced a 50 per cent discount on food and drinks at the game as well as a free meal combo for fans under 18.

The club later offered free tickets to another 2024 regular season game for all fans who attended.

In his claim, Chun says he’s not seeking to recover additional service fees, facility charges and order processing fees from Ticketmaster. But he cites “additional expenses” incurred by fans who travelled from out of town to watch the game.

‘I did all I could’

Chun’s lawyer wouldn’t comment further on the claim, but noted that Messi failed to appear at a match in Hong Kong in February and also missed games in Atlanta and Chicago — raising the ire of fans in those cities.

The furor in Hong Kong rose to such a pitch that Messi took to a Chinese social media platform to insist that he missed the match because of an inflamed abductor muscle.

A fan holds up a sign reading '3 Year Piggy $' and 'No Messi'.
A young fan shows his disappointment at Lionel Messi’s absence from a match against the Whitecaps on May 25. The Argentine legend’s no-show is now part of a proposed class-action lawsuit. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

“I did all I could,” he said in the post. “But I really couldn’t play.”

Chun’s proposed class-action suit is grounded in the terms of B.C.’s Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act as well as the federal Competition Act.

In addition to a refund, he’s seeking punitive damages against the Whitecaps and the MLS.

Fans petition Vancouver Whitecaps for refunds after Messi no-show

Soccer star Lionel Messi to miss game against Vancouver Whitecaps

The Whitecaps and the MLS have yet to file responses to the claim.

After news first broke that Messi, Suarez and Busquets might not be attending, Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster posted a statement online.

“Unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for our opponent, and it was important for us to communicate to our fans as soon as possible,” Schuster said.

“We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans.”

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