Russell Crowe slams 'joke' seating at USA-Australia basketball
Melbourne: Oscar-winner Russell Crowe led a chorus of criticism Friday of the seating arrangements at a basketball clash between the United States and Australia, with many fans paying big money to see very little.
The pre-World Cup showdown, on Thursday evening at Melbourne´s Marvel Stadium, was played in front of 51,000 fans -- the biggest crowd ever to watch a game of hoops in Australia.
But in a venue that usually hosts Australian Rules and football, a raised basketball court was dropped in meaning those on white plastic seats at ground level had restricted viewing, including Crowe.
"$1500 a ticket for this view. AUS v USA. Jokes on me," tweeted the Hollywood star after Australia were beaten 102-86. "If you weren´t among 50,000 there and you chose to watch it on tv at home, good decision."
He later added: "The only thing achieved by BasketballAus was enjoining with the promoters in ripping off well meaning lovers of the sport. It was a farce."
Plenty of other fans agreed.
"It´s called greed! There is a stadium across town which is purpose built for this kind of event called Rod Laver Arena capacity of 15,000," said one Twitter user.
Basketball Australia and promotor TEG Live said in a joint statement that feedback from the event was "strongly positive". But they acknowledged that "clearly there have been some fans that feel their expectations were not met on their purchased seats".
It claimed that of 11,000 floor seats, only 200 people wanted to be moved, and just two asked for a refund.
Flood of complaints
The visit of Team USA was already embroiled in controversy, with Australia´s consumer watchdog launching a probe into the use of absent NBA superstars to promote their exhibition games.
While the USA boast a host of top young talent guided by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, they lack the top names used to sell the event after a series of player withdrawals.
A change.org petition for refunds attracted more than 2,700 supporters claiming they had been ripped off, with a fresh flood of complaints about the seating fiasco.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chief Rod Sims said it was investigating whether people had been misled.
"We did have discussions with the promoters, and out of those discussions there was a suggestion from them of refunds," he told reporters, referring to the pre-game advertising.
"We´ve now added to that investigation whether or not consumers have been misled over the seating and the quality of the seating."
He added that the commission takes such allegations "very seriously" with the potential penalties "significant".
Basketball Australia and TEG did not explicitly address the pre-game advertising, only saying that "these games feature the best available players that have been selected to represent their respective nations at the 2019 World Cup".
Australia and the USA will play a second game at the same venue on Saturday.