MELBOURNE: Oscar-winner Russell Crowe led a chorus of criticism on 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 – meaning those on white plastic seats at ground level had restricted viewing, including Crowe.
“$1,500 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, with capacity of 15,000. Play 2-3 games there everyone goes home happy,” said one Twitter user.
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 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”.
The promoters, TEG Live, and Basketball Australia had no immediate comment.
Australia and the United States will play a second game at the same venue on Saturday.