Two disgruntled fans have sued Major League Baseball after being denied refunds for postponed games, while Premier League clubs announce their season ticket plans for the 2020-21 season.
MLB and StubHub sued
Major League Baseball (MLB), its 30 franchises, Ticketmaster, Live Nation, Last Minute Transactions and its ticket resale partner StubHub have all been named in a class action lawsuit by two fans that have been denied refunds after games were called off due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Monday, alleges violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law and of civil conspiracy.
It is demanding a refund of ticket costs and ancillary fees for games that have not been played, and indicates that “well over 100″ fans have said they would be prepared to make claims. The suit alleges the “amount in controversy… exceeds $5m.”
The MLB 2020 season was due to kick off on March 26, though no new date has been set, and proposals of potentially playing games without fans in Arizona have been floated.
The suit reads: “While many businesses across this country have acted lawfully and ethically by providing consumers with refunds for events that will never occur during this pandemic, sometimes at the risk of bankruptcy, it remains notable that America’s pastime — baseball — is refusing to do right by its fans.
“As stadiums remain empty for the foreseeable future, baseball fans are stuck with expensive and unusable tickets for unplayable games in the midst of this economic crisis.”
Premier League football clubs, including league leaders Liverpool, have updated season ticket plans for next year’s campaign as the time for renewals and payment deadlines arrives amid uncertainty due to COVID-19.
Liverpool has suspended its season ticket renewal process until there is clarity around the fixture schedule.
The club, which sat 25 points clear at the top of the league when COVID-19 halted football in its tracks, will freeze prices for the new campaign, adding that a new renewal period will be opened when the 2020-21 season start date is known.
Liverpool said refunds would be issued to season ticket holders if games can’t be played in front of supporters, or a pro-rata credit will be applied to their season ticket for the 2020-21 campaign.
Tottenham Hotspur has also postponed its season-ticket renewal window in March until provided with “greater clarity” on next year’s start date.
Meanwhile, Manchester United has opted to suspend its May 1 renewal deadline for season ticket holders, meaning passes for the 2020-21 campaign can still be bought. The club has also frozen prices for next year.
Season-ticket holders will get a pro-rata rebate against passes for next year if games can’t be held at Old Trafford in front of fans, or a pro-rata cash refund based on the number of games still to be played.
UK gov defends decision
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has insisted that the government was right to let Liverpool’s UEFA Champions League match against Atlético Madrid and the Cheltenham Festival horse-racing event to go ahead in mid-March.
Liverpool hosted Atlético at Anfield on Wednesday, March 11 in the same week that tens of thousands of fans attended Cheltenham Festival. The UK had not implemented social distancing guidelines or banned mass gatherings at this point.
Atlético supporters had travelled to Liverpool from Madrid at a time when parts of the Spanish capital were already in lockdown due to COVID-19. Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, the Mayor of Madrid, said over the weekend that it was a “mistake” to allow 3,000 Atlético fans to travel to Liverpool for the match.
At the UK government’s press conference yesterday (Monday), Liam Thorp, a reporter from the Liverpool Echo newspaper, questioned whether the match should have gone ahead. Liverpool hospitals have recorded more than 250 deaths from the virus.
Responding to the report, Angela McLean, the government’s deputy chief scientific adviser, said: “I’m genuinely sad to hear that so many people in Liverpool have been unwell and so many have died.”
She added: “I think it would be very interesting to see in the future when all the science is done what relationship there is between the viruses that have circulated in Liverpool and the viruses that have circulated in Spain. That’s certainly an interesting hypothesis you raise there.”
Sunak said: “At every stage in this crisis, we have been guided by the scientific advice and have been making the right decisions at the right time. It’s important that’s that what we do. There’s often a wrong time to put certain measures in place, thinking about sustainability and everything else. At all parts of this we have been guided by that science, guided by taking the right decisions at the right time and I stand by that.”
Meanwhile, Atlético has opened up facilities at the club’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium to vulnerable groups in Madrid during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Kitchens at the stadium have been made available to the regional government, which is implementing a plan to offer daily food to families that are socially vulnerable. A 900-square-metre space has been equipped with the “highest technology” and set up in the kitchens for the government.
Italy’s live events industry
Assomusica, Italy’s association of organisers and producers of live music shows, along with several other associations representing the live events industry, have unveiled a series of interventions highlighting the crisis in the sector and the need for urgent measures.
It has sent the demands to the president of the Conte Council and the Ministers of Cultural Heritage and Economy Franceschini and Gualtieri.
The interventions requested cover urgent non-refundable interventions, fiscal manoeuvres and operational actions aimed at giving certainty to the activities.
The signatory associations, including AFI, Anem, Assomusica, FEM, FIMI and PMI, have detailed how the shutdown of live events has produced “catastrophic effects” on the employment of the sector in a few weeks with hundreds of thousands of musicians, technicians and other parties in the supply chain.
Image: Rudi Riet