It was bad enough that less than half of the tickets to watch Manchester United play in Hong Kong this summer were reserved for the public. But now fans are even more upset to learn that even the most expensive ticket will only buy them a seat in the corners of the stadium, not a preferred midfield location.
The English Premier League team is due to play a friendly match against the local Kitchee side on July 29, in front of 40,000 spectators. But only 18,000 tickets were made available for sale to the public, and they sold out in 4-1/2 hours yesterday, priced from HK$330 to HK$990.
Manchester United reserved 11,000 tickets, with some going to title sponsor Aon and some to attract overseas supporters.
Kitchee organised the match, with HK$8 million from the Tourism Commission's Mega Events Fund to help pay the costs. The Tourism Board was given 4,000 tickets available to travel agents who need to develop packages before applying to buy the tickets. A Tourism Commission spokesman said the "18,000 tickets allocated for the public is comparable to similar top-class football matches held in the past."
A Kitchee spokeswoman said the tickets were meted out by the government and Manchester United, not the local football club. Kitchee was allocated 3,600 tickets to be shared with others in the local football community.
Even before the tickets went on sale to the public at 10am yesterday, a queue of over 100 people had formed outside the ticketing outlet, a Tom Lee Music Store in Tsim Sha Tsui. Some buyers had been waiting for 24 hours.
Jacky Lau, who works in sales, joined the queue at 2pm on Tuesday. He bought the per-customer limit of six tickets, for HK$990 each. He said it was unfair that the public, including devoted fans, had access to less than half the tickets - most of which were less than ideally situated. "The most expensive tickets left for the public are awful seats," he said.
All but the dearest seats were in the highest tier. The chart showing the seats available for the public wasn't posted outside the store until 8pm on Tuesday, Lau said, after he had been queuing for six hours. Lau was wearing a cap emblazoned with star player Wayne Rooney's name, and sporting Robin van Persie's football shirt. But Lau was pleased with his purchase. "It's a good deal as they have one of the strongest line-ups ever," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing Ryan Giggs play, and it's a rare chance to see [manager] Alex Ferguson."
Smith Mok, 22, who works in the food and beverage industry, started queuing at 2am yesterday, and managed to buy six tickets for HK$790 each. Mok plans to watch the game with his father, a Red Devils loyalist who got Mok hooked while he was still in primary school. Ticket scalpers were reselling tickets on auction websites yesterday. One seller offered six tickets worth HK$790 each for a total of HK$20,000 - or about four times the original price.