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Basketball fans livid after USA v Australia advertising, seating debacle

Thousands of disgruntled basketball fans in Melbourne have requested refunds after claiming they were left unsighted for this month’s international match between Australia and the USA due to a poorly thought out seating plan.

The Australian Boomers and USA Basketball match was held on a temporary court at the AFL-owned 53,359-capacity Marvel Stadium on Thursday night. Fans were placed on plastic chairs around the slightly raised court with no elevation in the stands.

The event has been compared on Twitter to the ill-fated Bahamas’ Fyre Festival.

Basketball Australia and promoter TEG Live played down the controversy in a statement issued on Friday.

“Over 51,000 fans attended the event and it is worth noting the feedback to us has been strongly positive. Clearly there have been some fans that feel their expectations were not met on their purchased seats,” a spokesperson said.

“TEG Live and Marvel Stadium worked with a number of fans at the game to make alternative arrangements. Of the 11,000 fans who had purchased floor seating to last night’s game, only 200 people were relocated. They were relocated promptly without issue and just two refunds were requested.

“We appreciate that it was a different viewing experience than many basketball fans are used to because the event was staged within a traditional football stadium.

“There were 14 massive video screens to augment the live action, including providing action replays, statistics and video pieces to keep the audience entertained.”

In addition to the stadium layout, fans also felt they had been victims of false advertising after original promotion of the matches saw TEG Live use images of stars Steph Curry and LeBron James, who did not play.

A tweet marketing a pre-sale of tickets in August 2018 billed the match as “the biggest game Australia has ever seen” and said there would be “the greatest names in basketball history” while including footage of NBA stars Kevin Durant and James Harden in a promotional video.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has advised ticketholders to contact the promoter TEG Live and request refunds. The ACCC released a statement saying it was “aware of refunds being made to consumers for the USA Basketball games … in Melbourne and Sydney on 22, 24 and 26 August”.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims told the Guardian Australia his team has been investigating the matter for more than a week and the event promoter had issued some refunds.

He said: “We’re now going to extend the investigation to see if people were misled about the seating.

“We need to look at what people were told, when they were told it in relation to the players, how long those ads were running, how many people bought tickets while those ads were running … what were they told in relation to the seating.”

TEG Live could be fined if it is convicted of breaching Australian consumer law.

Image: Bob Tan