Fans Petition Vancouver Whitecaps For Refunds, More Transparency After Lionel Messi No-Show | CBC News

British Columbia

Soccer fans are demanding refunds from the Vancouver Whitecaps after several stars — including Argentinian legend Lionel Messi — failed to play at a recent Major League Soccer game at B.C. Place that cost hundreds of dollars to attend. 

Petition had gained more than 2,500 signatures as of early ThursdayCBC News

· Posted: May 30, 2024 11:19 AM EDT | Last Updated: May 30

A young fan holds a sign showing his disappointment that Lionel Messi wasn’t playing against the Whitecaps at the MLS game in Vancouver on Saturday. Fans paid hundreds of dollars with hopes of seeing the Argentinian legend and other stars in the Inter Miami team. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)Soccer fans are demanding refunds from the Vancouver Whitecaps after several stars — including Argentinian legend Lionel Messi — failed to play at a recent Major League Soccer game at B.C. Place that cost hundreds of dollars to attend. 

A petition calling for compensation and more transparency from the club had gained more than 2,500 signatures as of early Thursday, a few days after the game against Inter Miami — which has several star players on its roster including Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez, Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets and World Cup winner Messi.

Ahead of the game, news broke that Miami would be keeping their top players in Florida due to a busy league schedule. 

In response, the Whitecaps announced a 50 per cent discount on food and drinks at the game, as well as a free meal combo for fans aged under 18. The club later offered free tickets to another regular season game in 2024 to all fans who attended. 

Still, many were left disappointed and frustrated.

“The use of Messi, Suárez, and Busquets in promotional materials has misled fans into believing they would see these stars play, leading to significantly higher ticket prices,” Rachele Renzi, the Vancouver resident who started the petition, said in a release.

The petition says prices set by Ticketmaster and the Whitecaps ranged from $300 to more than $600 and “are not justified without these star players.” It says Whitecaps tickets usually cost around $30.

The food and drinks discounts were “not sufficient” as compensation, it adds. 

WATCH | Fans disappointed by Messi no-show:

Fans outraged Lionel Messi won’t be playing in VancouverSeveral 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.

Shiraz Dindar, who lives on Vancouver Island, said he got tickets to the game as a surprise for his son’s 11th birthday. He said his son was devastated when he learned his idol Messi wouldn’t be playing in Vancouver. 

“He was just so depressed,” Dindar said.

He said he paid $350 for a ticket that would usually cost around $40 for a regular game at B.C. Place — and that didn’t factor in hotel and transport costs.

He said his son still enjoyed Saturday’s game — in which Miami beat Vancouver 2-1 — but said the Whitecaps should refund the difference in price. 

“He’d had a great time, so it lifted a lot of my frustration, but I still think there’s a principle involved here,” Dindar said. 

“With that much markup, it doesn’t seem right. I know Messi [not playing] wasn’t in their hands … but they could still offer more of a refund than the fairly paltry offerings they’ve given instead.”

Saturday’s game set a Whitecaps MLS attendance record of 51,035, the club said.

When asked about the petition and fans’ frustrations, Whitecaps spokesperson Nathan Vanstone directed CBC News to the club’s statement from May 23 in which club CEO Axel Schuster conceded a lot of fans would be “disappointed” by Messi’s failure to play.

“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 in the statement.

Vanstone also reiterated the club’s offer of complimentary tickets for another game.

Messi has missed several road games this MLS season, including fixtures in Orlando, New York and Washington, D.C.

After signing a blockbuster deal with Miami last summer, Messi also missed games in Atlanta and Chicago. The Chicago Fire attempted to win over angry fans by offering a credit for the game. 

With files from The Canadian Press

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