Four financial planners on an incentive trip to the soccer World Cup in Brazil were refused entry to the Netherlands-Argentina match after being told that their tickets were fakes.
The four were awarded the trip by employer Convoy Financial Services after achieving a business target of HK$60 million.
But they were barred from the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, because of “problematic barcodes” on the tickets, a staff member told the South China Morning Post.
They were among 17 people on the trip, including frontline Convoy staff who had attained sales targets, managerial staff and company chairman Quincy Wong Lee-man.
Wong told the Post on Friday that their excitement and anticipation turned to shock when the four were told their tickets were “fakes”.
He recalled that the 17 tourists and their tour guide arrived at the stadium about one hour before the game began. When the four showed their tickets for a scan, they were told the tickets were "problematic", he said.
After a further examination, stadium staff told the four that their tickets were "reprints” and "fakes" and confiscated them, Wong said. The other 14 got in to watch the semi-final.
The four felt helpless and stayed in the stadium until just before half-time to mull their options. They eventually headed to a bar and watched the rest of the game on television, Wong said.
"Watching the World Cup game in the stadium was the main purpose of our trip. Without it, it is like seeing no sea urchin in the sea urchin sushi you ordered. You can imagine how disappointed our colleagues are," Wong said.
The publicly listed North Point company bought the eight-day package from July 6 to 13 for HK$110,000 a person from local tour agency Swire Travel.
It included a ticket, estimated to cost HK$20,000 to HK$30,000, to the semi-final match in which Argentina beat the Netherlands in a penalty shootout.
In compensation, Convoy wants Swire Travel to find tickets to the Brazil versus Netherlands third-place match, scheduled for Saturday.
A spokeswoman for Swire Travel on Friday apologised to the four tourists and said it was working out remedy for them in the rest of the trip.
"We are communicating with the tourists now to work out how to make amends in the remaining time of the trip," she said.
The agency said it had bought the 18 tickets from one source, which it did not identify.
It said it was now investigating the source of the tickets and would report the incident to Brazilian authorities.
Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung said Swire Travel would have to compensate for the loss and report the matter to the police.
“Travel agencies should ensure they have a reliable source of tickets,” he said.
Tung said he had not heard of any other local agencies being involved with fake World Cup tickets.
A British man was arrested in Rio de Janeiro last month for selling 59 fake tickets. Three others were arrested for touting.
Fifa rejected about 50 fake tickets for the opening match in Sao Paulo between host Brazil and Croatia. It warned that the fakes in circulation are impossible to detect with the naked eye, and fans should only buy tickets from approved retailers.