‘Highway robbery’: Messi no-show has fans raging over pricey Whitecaps tickets

Click to play video: 'Fans react to no Lionel Messi at Vancouver Whitecaps game'
Fans react to no Lionel Messi at Vancouver Whitecaps game
Global News talked to Whitecaps fans and their thoughts on no Lionel Messi at the game on Saturday. Asa Rehman has the story – May 25, 2024

A Langford, B.C., family that spent thousands of dollars to give their son a chance to see his soccer idol is slamming the MLS and the superstar himself.

News broke Thursday that Argentine forward Lionel Messi would be a no-show for Saturday’s game between his club Inter Miami and the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Click to play video: 'Lionel Messi skipping Vancouver game Saturday'
Lionel Messi skipping Vancouver game Saturday

“The prices were extremely high only because of this superstar that was coming,” Karyn Theeparajah told Global News.

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“It’s highway robbery, if I am being honest, and the MLS knows that. They are getting away with it and I think it’s shameful.”

The Theeparajah family bought four-game Golden Era ticket packs — at a cost of about $2,000 — plus round-trip ferry fares for her son Carter’s ninth birthday, specifically because of the Miami game and marketing that heavily featured Messi.

Breaking the news to her son on Thursday was difficult, she said.

“He started crying and asked to read the article himself and was really angry, to be honest with you,” she said. “He was angry and sad.”

Like many of the 55,000 other fans who bought tickets to the game, she said, they expected the star would at least travel with the team.

Click to play video: '‘It’s a gut punch:’  Whitecaps announce Messi will not play in Vancouver'
‘It’s a gut punch:’ Whitecaps announce Messi will not play in Vancouver

“He was on the front cover,” Carter said of the ticket pack. “I was, like, so excited to go see him play I couldn’t sleep.”

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“They made a bad decision doing that. They should have ensured he was or wasn’t coming, and then they should have done all of that.”

Inter Miami hasn’t specified why Messi didn’t make the trip to Vancouver, and it is unclear whether his coach ordered him to rest or if he just didn’t want to come. The star is not currently listed as injured.

As fans in British Columbia raged about the no-show, Inter Miami posted a video of Messi to its X (formerly Twitter) account saying the star would be a “special guest” for a weekend youth tournament in Miami.

Vancouver ticket broker Kingsley Bailey said many B.C. fans feel like they’ve been the victim of a bait and switch.

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“Fans were willing to pay whatever it took to get a chance to see this guy on Canadian Soil playing in the MLS, It didn’t matter the price,” he said.

Single-game tickets for the event started at $329, and Bailey said many fans shelled out much more than that. The Whitecaps, he said, leaned heavily on the Messi marketing to justify those prices and to move season and multi-game ticket packs.

With no Messi, he said the club should be doing something to make fans whole.

“A full refund, a full credit, something. Because they should not be profiting from this problem that the fans are suffering.

The Whitecaps have said they empathize with fans, but while they’ll be offering half-price food and drink at the game, the club has made no mention of any possible refunds.

“The first thing I have to say and want to say is I hear them, feel with them I understand their frustration, and I can tell them we share their frustration. As I said before, I think there is no one more disappointed and frustrated than our players,” Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster said.

Click to play video: 'Lionel Messi mania in Montreal'
Lionel Messi mania in Montreal

Theeparajah believes ticketholders should be refunded the difference between what they paid and the normal value of a Whitecaps ticket — typically well under $100.

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She also wants the league to be proactive in disclosing that superstar players may not travel for high-profile games so that ticket buyers know the risk.

“People saved up to be able to have this opportunity and now they are going to what I would call a regular Whitecaps game and they would have paid 10 times what a normal seat would cost — that really hurts,” she said.

She also had a message for the Argentine star himself, if he’s listening.

“My son just had an injury, he plays football, and he had an injury for a month he showed up for every practice, every game, to be with his team even though he couldn’t contribute,” she said.

“(Messi) should be ashamed of himself.”

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