It should have been an exciting debut for Hong Kong in Asia’s top flight, but Eastern’s participation in the ACL has already turned a bit sour before the tournament even started.
At 10:00 am on 14 Feb, Eastern kicked off public ticket sales for all three home games against Kawasaki Frontale (1 Mar), Suwon Samsung Bluewings (14 Mar) and Guangzhou Evergrande (25 Apr) in the ACL group stage. By 10:30 all home game packages were sold out and – currently – only a limited number of individual match tickets are still available. But what sounds like a heart-warming demand for quality football, has turned into a case of unprepared management.
Soon after ticket sales started, screenshots circulated online that showed how fans of Guangzhou Evergrande have been able to obtain tickets in the “home sector” for the match at Mong Kok Stadium. Apparently, any buyer could freely choose if she/he would prefer to sit in the home or away sector. No identification other than a “full name” were required. In contrast, Eastern fans who attend the away game in Guangzhou on 22 Feb had to register with their HKID and their Chinese visa or home return permit in order to purchase proper “away tickets”.
Last year, many Hong Kong fans were barred from attending the away game of the representative team in Shenzhen, because the Mainland ticketing system did not include payment options for Hong Kong residents. In this case, cityline.com enabled both “Union Pay” and courier service to make cross-border purchases extremely easy. It appears that the airy handling of ACL ticketing has already affected the atmosphere, what will now be most likely a tense stand-off, as it is yet to see how much “home support” Eastern will really have, especially on 25 Apr. At the same time, it will once again question the decision, why the Premier League champion insisted on playing every game at Mong Kok Stadium, where capacity is limited to a max. of 6,500 people, while the demand might have easily gone into five figures this time.
On Taobao home game packages are now offered for up to HK$ 1,900 (RMB 1,680), what would be four times the original price.