Tatler Asia, which organised an exhibition match between Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami CF and a Hong Kong XI team, has stated that it would issue refunds after Lionel Messi did not play.
The World Cup winner’s absence left fans and the government furious as they had been under the impression that he would make an appearance on the pitch.
As a result, Tatler Asia has said that it would give a 50% refund to those who purchased tickets through “official channels”.
“We apologise to all those who were disappointed by the football match between the Hong Kong Team and Inter Miami CF on Sunday, February 4,” read a Tatler Asia statement.
“An event that we had hoped to be the pride of the city, and which we have worked very hard on for months, has become the source of great heartbreak.”
The company claims that the refund could cost it HK$56m (£5.6m/$7m/€6.6m), resulting in a net loss of HK$43m.
The decision came following a meeting between Tatler Asia and governmental authorities, with the latter suggesting that a 50% refund be given.
Messi had been left on the bench, due to a muscle discomfort, for the match at the Hong Kong Stadium in front of more than 38,000 disgruntled fans who booed from the stands.
Hong Kong’s Consumer Council had received a total of 1,303 complaints linked to the match by 2pm on the same day.
Among them were 1,038 from local people while the remaining 265 came from tourists.
Chinese state-run news agency Global Times claimed that there were “political motives” and “external forces deliberately [seeking] to embarrass Hong Kong”.
Hong Kong’s senior government advisor Regina Ip also said that Messi should never be allowed to visit the region again.
The Argentine then went on to play 30 minutes against Japanese side Vissel Kobe in another friendly match three days later.