On Thursday afternoon a statement from the Vancouver Whitecaps confirmed the news that 50,000 supporters had been dreading. Lionel Messi – along with Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets – would not be travelling with the Inter Miami squad for Saturday’s game.

In announcing the news the Whitecaps struck an apologetic tone, writing: “Unfortunately, we have no control over who plays for our opponent”.

The club had been expecting a sell-out crowd at BC Place, their support bolstered by tens of thousands of soccer fans eager to see the Argentinian World Cup winner in the flesh. Now, they face the prospect of a major backlash after hiking up tickets for the game, with some supporters paying thousands of dollars on resale sites.

As the Whitecaps’ statement makes clear, they are not to blame for Messi’s absence and are fans are not legally entitled to a refund. However the team has opted to offer a 50% discount on food and drinks this weekend, with under-18s set to be given a complimentary kids meal combo.

Is this gesture enough, considering that the club has benefitted financially by bumping up ticket prices to cash in on the interest in Lionel Messi? Here’s how some other teams have dealt with the Messi situation…

Do teams offer a refund if Messi doesn’t play?

In general, no. Teams are under no obligation to offer any form of compensation if a star player misses a match, particularly when the player is a member of the opposition team. However, some supporters have received something extra after missing out on Messi.

Most notably, Chicago Fire sold a team-record 61,000 tickets for a meeting with Inter Miami last October, only to find that Messi would be absent for the game at Soldier Field. In response Chicago announced that ticket holders could claim a $250 credit towards a 2024 season ticket, or a $50 credit for one-off games in the future.

Inter Miami’s friendly against Vissel Kobe in doubt

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Supporters in Hong Kong were furious when Lionel Messi remained on the substitutes’ bench.PETER PARKSAFP

Earlier this year, during Inter Miami’s less-than-successful preseason tour, Messi failed to take to the field for a friendly game against a Hong Kong Select XI. Some tickets for the game had cost in excess of $500 and Messi’s no-show sparked a diplomatic incident, with local officials claiming that they had been deliberately slighted.

In a bid to calm tensions Tatler Asia, organisers of the game, agreed to offer refunds of 50% for supporters. The refund reportedly cost Talter Asia around $7.3 million and they were forced to withdraw a request for financial support from local government.

In the past Inter Miami head coach Tata Martino has spoken about his own team’s struggles to cope with Messi’s need to rest. He recently told reporters: “The absence of the best player in the world is important for everyone.

At this stage, Messi’s absences no longer come as a major surprise. He missed a chunk of Miami’s late-2023 games due to injury and Saturday’s match will be the sixth out of 15 missed by the Argentine so far in 2024. However the league’s relentless marketing of Messi, and rival teams’ attempts to make money off his appeal, risks causing problems within fanbases and alienating potential new supporters.


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