A British Columbia resident is suing both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Major League Soccer because Lionel Messi failed to appear for Inter Miami in Canada. The Argentine missed the game due to rest, with Vancouver only announcing Inter Miami’s decision two days before the fixture. By that time, the majority of fans had already purchased tickets to the game with the hopes of seeing Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets.

Ho Chun is the Vancouver native who filed the civil claim in a British Columbia court. He paid $404 for a pair of tickets with the hope of seeing the Inter Miami stars. Ho Chun cited the advertising campaigns from Vancouver that showed the chance of seeing Lionel Messi in action. He says it is a classic case of bait-and-switch from Vancouver and Major League Soccer.

“Using such promotional materials as ‘bait,’ the defendants caused the tickets for the Vancouver v. Miami game to be listed and sold on the primary market at ten times higher than the price of other Vancouver Whitecaps home games,” the lawsuit claims.

Understanding the fans’ frustration, Vancouver did what it could to salvage fans’ enjoyment of the game. That included discounts on food at the game, with any attendee under the age of 18 receiving a free meal combo. However, Chun is seeking to benefit all those who attended the game. He wants a full refund for those who did not show up for the game and a partial refund for those who did attend. Per Chun’s wishes, those in attendance at the game would receive the difference between what they paid for the ticket and what the average ticket to a Vancouver Whitecaps game is.

Vancouver has already offered fans in attendance a free ticket to another Whitecaps game in 2024.

Inter Miami stands by leaving Messi off Vancouver Whitecaps squad

Following the reveal of Inter Miami’s squad, the Vancouver Whitecaps admitted defeat. Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster posted a statement online saying he understood why fans would be upset.

“Unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for our opponent, and it was important for us to communicate to our fans as soon as possible,” Schuster said. “We know that there will also be a lot of disappointed fans.”

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Lionel Messi is a major draw for teams when Inter Miami is the road team. Sporting Kansas City and the New England Revolution reported massive crowds at NFL stadiums. Vancouver’s average attendance this season across the seven games not against Inter Miami is 25,949. However, the Inter Miami contest drew 51,035 fans to BC Place on May 25. Chun’s lawsuit would protect those new supporters who made an effort to see Messi, Suarez and Busquets.

Yet, he will not find sympathy from Inter Miami manager Tata Martino. Speaking about the droves of fans in Vancouver, he said it came down to a sporting decision, not a financial one.

“We understand the people’s frustration, especially in wanting to see these players, but it is our job as the coaching staff to make these decisions that are uncomfortable,” Martino said. “We understand what these players provoke in the league and other markets, but we have to take these measures that are sometimes unpleasant for people. But they are beneficial for the players,” the manager said.

The future of Ho Chun’s lawsuit may set a precedent for future no-shows. Lionel Messi missed Miami’s game in Chicago last season. Additionally, his absence caused a major mishap in Hong Kong. Event organizers of the friendly lost money because of refunds.