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B.C. fan files class-action suit over Messi no-show at Whitecaps match

Man says soccer club's advertising led fans to believe Messi would play

A B.C. soccer fan has launched a class-action lawsuit against the Vancouver Whitecaps over what he says what misleading advertising ahead of a May match that led ticket purchasers to believe that Lionel Messi would be playing. 

Fans weren't told until May 23, two days before the Vancouver Whitecaps versus Inter Miami CF game, that Messi wouldn't be in attendance. Two other famous players, Luis Suárez and Sergio Busquets, also wouldn't be playing, fans were told then. 

Burnaby resident Ho Chun filed an application to certify a class-action lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 4).

His claim describes the situation as "a classic case of bait-and-switch," in which fans were baited with the expectation of seeing world-famous players and bought tickets at about ten times the cost of regular season ones, only to learn their favourite players wouldn't be there after all. 

Chun includes a list of advertising examples from the Whitecaps in his application, showing how they used photos of Messi, Suárez and Busquets and references to them in the lead up to the match. There were no promises that the players would show, but that was the implication, Chun says. 

He says he spent $404 on two tickets for the May 25 match.

Chun is seeking a partial refund for the difference between the cost of a regular Whitecaps ticket and the inflated price fans paid, a full refund for ticket holders who decided not to attend the game after learning Messi wouldn't be there and a court-ordered process for fans to claim additional costs they may have incurred. For instance, Chun says, some fans may have paid for travel and accomodation to be in Vancouver for the game. 

Chun is also asking for a declaration from the Whitecaps and Major League Soccer that they misled people.

The lawsuit alleges that both defendants violated the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and the Competition Act, and that the Whitecaps breached the implied warranties/conditions of the Sale of Goods Act.

When the Whitecaps announced Messi would be a no-show on May 23, club CEO Axel Schuster said they have no power over who plays on the other side. 

The Vancouver Football Club later offered fans who were set to attend the match a free ticket to Vancouver FC’s first derby match of 2024. Attendees were also given a discount on food and drinks.

Fans started a petition in the aftermath calling for refunds, which has garnered more than 2,800 signatures as of midday Thursday (June 6). 

Chun's class-action application will have to be certified by a B.C. Supreme Court judge before it is allowed to move forward.

None of the defendants named in it have filed responses as of publication. 


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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

Hi, I'm a provincial reporter with Black Press Media, where I've worked since 2020.
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