United fans out in cold as sponsors hog tickets for Macau exhibition

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2007, 12:00am

Hong Kong fans are likely to miss out on watching Manchester United in Macau in July with the bulk of tickets reserved for corporate sponsors.

Organisers hinted yesterday tickets might not go on sale in Hong Kong after the English Premier League champions-in-waiting released dates of their Asian Tour - July 17 in Japan, July 20 in South Korea, July 23 in Macau and July 27 in Malaysia.

'We are not sure if tickets will go on sale in Hong Kong. It has not been decided yet,' said Julian Kam, a senior official at Pro-Events, the promoters of the visit which will celebrate the opening of the US$3.2 billion Venetian Macau Resort Hotel.

The casino, which has promised to turn the enclave into a sporting hub, will also bring NBA teams the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic. Tickets to that game will likely be available to the public.

Rick Adkinson, secretary of the Manchester United Supporters Club's Hong Kong branch, said: 'I doubt Joe Public in Hong Kong will get to watch the game. The chances of buying a ticket are very slim, or not at all. I believe most tickets will go to corporate sponsors.'

Adkinson said he hoped members of the local branch would be allocated a fair share of tickets for the game at the 15,000-seat Macau National Stadium.

When Manchester United visited Hong Kong in 2005, the local fan club only got 50 tickets, and this in a stadium with a 40,000 capacity. Only 33,971 spectators turned up.

The Macau fixture, most likely against a select XI from China, will be played one day before Hong Kong's four-team English Premier League Asia Trophy featuring Liverpool, Fulham, Portsmouth and the winners of the Hong Kong FA Cup, kicks off at Hong Kong Stadium.

Hong Kong officials believe the Manchester United fixture would not rob their own tournament - on July 24 and July 27 - of lustre and fans.

'Ours is a real tournament while Manchester United are playing an exhibition game,' said Martin Lam Chun-ying, general secretary of the Hong Kong Football Association.