Football: Indonesian promoters to refund Chelsea fans who paid big sums to meet Blues

JAKARTA (AFP) - An Indonesian sports promoter will return thousands of dollars to local Chelsea fans who were charged a hefty sum to rub shoulders with the players without the Blues' consent, the organiser said Monday.

The scores of fans, some of whom paid more than US$2,000 (S$2,534) to attend exclusive sideline events, will now meet the players for free before a friendly against the Indonesia All-Stars on Thursday.

The promoter, Nine Sport, said it managed to sell out the nearly 150 tickets to various events within a month.

It slapped a 22 million rupiah (US$2,178) price tag for each of the 24 spots at a meet-and-greet, seven million rupiah for a jersey signing event and 5.5 million rupiah for a coaching clinic.

Both Chelsea, which do not charge fans to meet players, and the promoter put the debacle down to a cultural misunderstanding ahead of the team's first-ever visit to Indonesia, a football-crazy nation of 240 million people.

"While we understand this is accepted practice in Indonesia, it does not fit with our tour philosophy... towards leaving a lasting legacy in countries and communities we visit," a Chelsea spokesman told AFP.

He said the team still looked forward to the visit.

Nine Sport CEO Arif Putra Wicaksono said the tickets to the sideline events were sold to cover the huge cost of Chelsea's match fee.

Nine Sport was informed by Chelsea last Thursday that they had a policy not to charge people to meet the players, Wicaksono said.

In collaboration with its main sponsor, Bank Negara Indonesia, Wicaksono said the promoter would refund the money with some assistance from Chelsea.