Why have nervous Eastern officials suddenly increased the number of seats allocated to mainland fans before tonight’s Champions League clash?
Senior official from the Hong Kong club reveals tickets for home fans may have fallen into the hands of away supporters and attempt to segregate them fearing trouble
Worried Eastern club officials doubled the visiting fans capacity just hours before their AFC Champions League home tie against Guangzhou Evergrande at Mong Kok Stadium for security reasons on Tuesday.
An isolated 350-seat area in the Boundary Street stand was originally allocated for mainland fans who bought tickets through Evergrande but it is feared there might be more mainland supporters intending to attend the game after a senior Eastern official revealed that a number of Eastern fans had sold their tickets to mainland-based Guangzhou supporters online for more than the face value.
In an effort to avoid any potential crowd trouble during the highly-charged meeting between the top teams in Hong Kong and China, a new designated area in the stands behind the goal on the car park end with a capacity of around 700 seats has now been allocated to away supporters.
“We know some fans sold their tickets online at a price as high as HK$600 and these tickets may have gone to Guangzhou fans who are desperate for tickets to watch their team,” said Eastern director Peter Leung Shou-chi.
“Our original plan was that all ticket holders – except for the original 350 Evergrande fans [who had purchased their match tickets through official channels] – would need to produce their Hong Kong identity cards to enter the stadium. But if some of the tickets have been sold to mainlanders, in order to avoid any potential problems, we have decided to allow them to get in to the visiting fan zone.”
Around 4,000 home tickets were made available for home fans and were snapped up shortly after they went on sale in February.
Leung said they understood that of those sold tickets, 404 were bought by mainlanders and Eastern had asked these fans to return the tickets as they were intended for fans of the home team. They therefore declared that they would be checking all the spectators’ Hong Kong identity cards in order to stop fans who had obtained their tickets on the black market from getting into the ground.
The official refused to disclose how many tickets had been returned by the mainland fans, who were given an additional HK$50 on top of the HK$180 ticket prices.
But it is believed only half had returned their tickets and there would still be around 200 mainland ticket holders who would attempt to get into the stadium on Tuesday night without a Hong Kong identity card.
Leung, however, said these fans could now get in after the visiting fan allocation was expanded.
Fans of Eastern reacted furiously on social media with some referencing the strict allocation of tickets Guangzhou gave to away supporters in the corresponding fixture earlier this year, which the Chinese Super League side won 7-0.