The consumer watchdog is investigating whether basketball fans were misled by promoters about seating and the stars on show at the much-hyped Australia-USA game in Melbourne.
Fans, including Hollywood star Russell Crowe, complained on social media about views from sections of Marvel Stadium – usually used for football – for the pre-World Cup friendly on Thursday night.
The game – which the USA won 102-86 – attracted a crowd of more than 51,000, a record for basketball in Australia.
But many fans dubbed the game the ‘Fyre festival’ of basketball, saying they were made to sit on white plastic chairs better suited to a backyard barbecue than an all-star match. Those who forked out more than $1000 to sit on ground-level seats in the front row felt the most hard done by.
Before the game, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had already received hundreds of complaints from ticket-holders who claimed to have been misled about which players were involved and wanted refunds.
“We’ve now added to that investigation whether or not consumers have been misled over the seating and the quality of the seating,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said in Sydney on Friday.
“We take allegations of misleading behaviour very seriously and the penalties for breaching the Consumer Act are significant.”
Team USA Basketball won its first exhibition game against Australia, 102-86. Attendance was 51,218, which was the largest crowd at a basketball game in Australia.
Fans paid exorbitant prices to sit in plastic lawn chairs. The most expensive seats were not on an incline at all. pic.twitter.com/V9M4cKQXYi
— StarTimesClub (@StarTimesClub) August 23, 2019
Mr Sims said the issue was complicated but involved a lot of consumers and the number of ticket-holders ringing to complain was high.
“They were angry and wanted a refund,” he said.
“We can well understand that if something is advertised with certain elite players … if you don’t have the key players that could well significantly affect whether you’re still interested in attending.”
Both the promoters and ticket sellers were aware of the ACCC’s investigation, he said.
$1500 a ticket for this view. AUS v USA .
Jokes on me.
If you weren’t among 50,000 there and you chose to watch it on tv at home, good decision . pic.twitter.com/VlNuXWp6iI
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) August 22, 2019
Crowe tweeted a video from his $1500-courtside seat on Thursday night, labelling it a joke.
“If you weren’t among 50,000 there and you chose to watch it on TV at home, good decision,” he wrote.
“The only thing achieved tonight by @BasketballAus was enjoining with the promoters in ripping off well meaning lovers of the sport. It was a farce.”
Australia will play the USA in a second game at Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon.