Tatler Asia promises Messi fans partial refund

Hong Kong Consumer Council urges fast payment as Tatler Asia XFEST counts cost of Messi Inter Miami fiasco. Pre-publicity featured inter Miami co-owner David Beckham and noted official backing from big-name sponsors and government agencies

SOCCER fans who bought tickets via official channels to see the touring Inter Miami team play a Hong Kong side as part of an event that heavily publicised Lionel Messi and other big names are to receive a 50 per cent refund, organisers have announced.

Tatler Asia, which organised the event under its Tatler XFEST brand, issued an apology after Messi sat the game out, sparking fury among nearly 40,000 fans at Hong Kong Stadium and a huge fallout prompting criticism from city government officials and condemnation across Chinese media.

Hong Kong Consumer Council said this week said it considered the offer a fair amount but urged the organiser to speed up payments.

More… Anger brews over Hong Kong’s Messigate

MIX understands that local contractors working on fringe events as part of Tatler XFEST, in which the Inter Miami game was the highlight, are due to be paid in full.

The Hong Kong-based publisher of the society title’s Asia editions, which organised the match as part of a week-long campaign to champion the city as an international events destination, said the refund to fans would cost up to US$7 million. Tatler Asia is published by Swiss company Edipresse, which is not part of UK Tatler.

Tatler Asia had anticipated making HK$13 million (about US$1.6m) from the event, but now faces a HK$43m loss, the Financial Times reported.

Backgrounder… Festive vibe returns to Hong Kong

“We have invested millions of dollars and months of hard work into bringing a world-class event to Hong Kong, the city that is our home and where we have been headquartered for more than 45 years,” Tatler Asia Group said in a statement following the fixture, which Messi sat out on the substitutes bench due to muscle injury. 

“Our aspiration was to create an iconic moment in support of the government’s efforts to remind the world how relevant and exciting Hong Kong is. That dream is broken today for us and all those who bought tickets to see Messi on the pitch.”

It described Messi’s subsequent appearance on the pitch during Inter Miami’s game against a side in Kobe, Japan, as a “slap in the face”.

Pre-publicity featured soccer legend David Beckham, a co-founder of Inter Miami, in a video with a scenic Hong Kong backdrop promoting the game. Beckham is a regular visitor to Macau where he promotes Sands China resorts such as The Londoner hotel. Beckham was booed as he spoke to the crowd after the game when Hong Kong officials, including Chief Executive John Lee, appeared on the pitch for a cup presentation ceremony.

Tatler Asia allied its XFEST brand with Hong Kong Tourism Board and Brand Hong Kong following a conference on innovation organised at the West Kowloon Cultural District as part of promotions to highlight the city as an international events hub.

More… HK Gov overhaul proposes Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau

Tattler Asia’s build-up to the Inter Miami game used the Singapore F1 Grand Prix as a comparison. “Given the glamour, international appeal and multi-genre entertainment aspects of Tatler XFEST Hong Kong, it is possible to envisage it growing into an ‘event week’ similar to the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore”.

A footnote to the Inter Milan pre-pubicity emphasises its links with official bodies promoting Hong Kong and major sponsors: “Tatler XFEST Hong Kong is recognised by the Major Sports Events Committee and is sponsored by Prudential, Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel, Adidas, BMW, Chopard, Mastercard and is supported by the Football Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong International Airport, Brand Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Tourism Board.”

Editor’s Note: Early versions of the newsletter highlight that linked to this story referred to Inter ‘Milan’ – this, of course, was incorrect. We regret the error.

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