英文

Editorial:Profiteer Should Refund over Messi's Sit-out

【明報專訊】TATLER ASIA, the organiser of the Inter Miami exhibition match in Hong Kong, has become the target of public censure amid the controversy over soccer legend Lionel Messi's absence from the pitch. The role of the government has also attracted much attention. Chief Executive John Lee said yesterday (6 February) that the government will keep on urging the organiser to explain in detail what happened and actively respond to the demands of fans who bought tickets to the match. As for the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau and the Major Sports Events Committee, they should also review their supervisory roles, responsibilities and requirements when assisting in the organisation of mega events.

The organiser and Inter Miami have made huge profits from this exhibition match but failed to pay due respect to the fans, who were treated as ''cash cows'' and had to bear the insult of receiving services that did not meet the advertised descriptions. It is the organiser's responsibility to explain the entire incident in detail, make a public apology and refund the tickets to the fans who attended. The government must also learn from this and closely monitor the use of sponsorship funds to prevent major mistakes by the organiser that would damage Hong Kong's reputation.

Inter Miami's visit to Hong Kong was originally awarded the "M" Mark status by the government, providing a sponsorship of HK$16 million. But unexpectedly, the event caused a public uproar. The organiser issued a brief statement the night before yesterday, saying that it would voluntarily withdraw its funding application, but did not mention any plans for compensation or answer any questions. As of yesterday evening, the Consumer Council has received 477 related complaints.

The Inter Miami players are now in Tokyo, preparing for an exhibition match today (7 February). At a press conference in Japan, Messi spoke for the first time about his sit-out in Hong Kong, saying that he could not play because of ''thigh muscle discomfort''. He expressed regret about it and hoped to play in Hong Kong again in the future. Of course, whether the attendees of the match accept his explanation is another thing. After all, the organiser sold the tickets at extortionate prices as high as HK$4,880. Even a bucket of ordinary fried chicken cost HK$580 at the stadium. If Messi does play in Tokyo, it will certainly not sit well with the over 38,000 fans who attended the match in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The business of Tatler Asia, the organiser of this exhibition match, includes running a luxury lifestyle magazine, a website and e-commerce services. It also organises banquets and activities for many famous international brands. Inter Miami charges as much as US$10 million for an exhibition match. For Tatler Asia, although the cost of organising this match was high, the profit apparently seemed to be more substantial.

A conservative estimate puts the ticket revenue from Saturday's practice session and Sunday's match alone at over HK$100 million, that is, not including sponsorships from other private organisations. In addition, before the friendly match, Tatler Asia also organised a ''meet-and-greet'' and ''autograph session'', charging as much as HK$120,000 to 150,000 per person. All these actions and arrangements surrounding this exhibition match gave people the impression that the organiser was trying to squeeze every penny from the event—instead of doing it for the sake of football, the fans, it was all merely for marketing.

Both the organiser and Inter Miami owe the fans an apology and a public explanation regarding the controversy over Messi's absence. The Hong Kong government must hold the organiser responsible. Moreover, the Consumer Council and the Customs Department should also actively deal with the related complaints and urge the organiser to give a refund to fans who had bought tickets to the match.

明報社評 2024.02.07:盛事「賺到盡」易起爭端 主辦方應向球迷「回水」

球王美斯缺陣風波,主辦方Tatler Asia成為眾矢之的,政府的角色亦備受關注。行政長官李家超昨天表示,政府將繼續敦促主辦單位詳細交代、積極回應買票入場球迷的訴求,至於文體旅局及大型體育活動事務委員會,亦須檢視在協助舉辦大型活動時的監督角色、責任和要求。

今次表演賽,主辦方和國際邁阿密進帳豐厚,對球迷卻缺乏應有尊重。球迷被當「搖錢樹」,還要面對貨不對辦的侮辱,主辦方有責任詳細解釋事件始末及公開道歉,並向入場球迷「回水」,政府也必須汲取教訓,出錢贊助就要切實跟進,以防主辦方「甩轆」損害香港名聲。

國際邁阿密訪港,原本獲得政府「M」品牌基金加持,提供1600萬元資助,未料事件鬧得滿城風雨,主辦方前晚宣讀簡短聲明,主動撤回資助申請,惟無提及賠償,亦無回應任何提問。截至昨天黃昏,消委會已接獲477宗相關投訴。

國際邁阿密球員目前身處東京,準備今天的表演賽。美斯在日本記者會上,首度談及在港缺陣一事,表示因為「大腿肌肉不適」未能上場,對此感到遺憾,希望日後能再到香港比賽。當然,入場球迷是否接受美斯的解釋,又是另一回事,畢竟主辦方收取高昂票價,最貴更達4880元,就連場內一桶普通炸雞售價也要580元。美斯若在東京落場,對於周日在港入場的逾3.8萬名球迷而言,難免不是味兒。

今次表演賽的主辦方Tatler Asia,主要經營奢華生活雜誌、網站和電子商務等,也為不少國際名牌舉行宴會及活動。國際邁阿密一場表演賽收高達1000萬美元的酬金,Tatler Asia主辦今次賽事成本雖高,但收入似乎更可觀。

保守估計,單是周六操練及周日比賽的門票收入便逾1億港元,這還未計其他私人機構的贊助。另外,主辦方還在比賽前舉行了「見面會」和「簽名會」,每位收費可達12萬至15萬港元。圍繞今次表演賽的各種舉動和安排,予人感覺都是「賺到盡」,「不為足球、不為球迷,只做行銷」。

美斯缺陣風波,無論主辦方和國際邁阿密都欠球迷一個道歉、欠公眾一個交代。港府必須追究主辦方責任,消委會和海關亦應該積極處理相關投訴,敦促主辦方向買飛入場球迷「回水」。

/ Glossary生字 /

censure:strong criticism

cash cow:the part of a business that always makes a profit and that provides money for the rest of the business

extortionate:(of prices, etc.) much too high

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英文版將於2月9日起休刊,2月26日復刊。編輯部

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