Lionel Messi no-show prompts proposed lawsuit against Whitecaps

The claims says the heavy promotion based on star Miami players coming to Vancouver caused ticket prices to spike 10 times the average price

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A soccer fan who spent $400 to see Lionel Messi and other superstars play the Vancouver Whitecaps is suing the team, alleging it was reckless to use the stars to sell tickets knowing they might not come, according to a proposed class-action lawsuit.

“This is a classic case of bait and switch,” said the lawsuit filed by lawyers for Ho Chun against the team and MLS in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

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The “bait” was the advertising the Whitecaps flooded on to social media and billboards and in print depicting photos of four players from Inter Miami CF, including Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, according to the lawsuit.

And the “switch” was the announcement on May 23, two days before the scheduled May 25 home game, that the three players wouldn’t be playing.

It said the team and leagues ought to have known that “these famous soccer players may not be playing … or were otherwise reckless” as to whether they could or would play.

The lawsuit says the heavy promotion based on those players coming to Vancouver caused ticket prices to jump to 10 times the average price.

Chun is seeking a refund equal to the difference between what was paid and the average price he would have paid for the same seat.

Lionel Messi led Inter Miami past Pablo Ruiz and Real Salt Lake in the MLS curtain raiser on Wednesday at Chase Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images /PNG

The lawsuit also seeks a full refund on behalf of people who bought tickets and didn’t attend the game, and the right to claim for money spent to travel from out of town, on hotel rooms and lost income to attend the game.

The lawsuit alleges the Whitecaps and MLS violated B.C.’s Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and the federal Competition Act, and that the Whitecaps violated the implied warranties and conditions of B.C.’s Sale of Goods Act.

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Chun said he bought two tickets for $187.75 each for him and his wife and with a per ticket service fee and facility fee, as well as an order-processing fee, paid $404 in total. The lawsuit is requesting a partial refund only of the ticket price portion and not the fees, it said.

The team’s May 23 announcement said “unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for the opponent” and that it expected a “club record MLS-era crowd.” It didn’t offer a refund but said food and drink sold at B.C. Place would be 50 per cent off for the game.

On game day, the team also offered everyone in attendance a free ticket to a 2024 home game, spokesman Nathan Vanstone said in an email. He said the team had no comment on the lawsuit.

The Miami game was a sellout, with 55,000 tickets sold. Earlier in the season, the team averaged 25,000 at home games.

The suit alleges the Whitecaps engaged in a “deceptive act or practice” contrary to the Consumer Protection Act, and in “false and misleading” advertising contrary to the Competition Act, and it breached the implied warranties and conditions of the Sale of Goods Act.

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The pre-game ads, “were not true,” and caused fans to get less value than expected because “the value of watching a game with these players is of much higher value than a game without these players,” according to the lawsuit.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

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