Will Seattle Sounders "Poor Play" Refund Set a Precedent?

Bill HareCorrespondent IMay 9, 2010

SEATTLE - MAY 08:  Fans of the Seattle Sounders FC hold signs prior to the game against the Los Angeles Galaxy on May 8, 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. The Galaxy defeated the Sounders 4-0.(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In the realm of sports as well as in other entertainment areas such as movies and plays the policy has been clear cut.

We are sorry, sir or madam, but we cannot guarantee that you will be satisfied with the quality of what you see.  All we will guarantee is that you have the opportunity to view the event.

On an otherwise warm, cheery, sunny Saturday afternoon Seattle Sounders FC fans were crushed on a day when the team set a franchise attendance record of 36,273 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.

The home team allowed four goals for the first time in club history in falling 4-0 to the first-place Los Angeles Galaxy.  It was only the second time that the club has allowed more than one goal at home in a league match.

The 4-0 setback tied for the worst loss in Sounders history.  The other occasion was last year’s identical 4-0 shutout at San Jose.

The Sounders management announced Sunday that a refund for Saturday’s game will be issued to season ticket holders in the form of a credit applicable toward 2011 season tickets.

Sounders owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer explained:

"That wasn't Sounders soccer and it was quite frankly embarrassing, humiliating and the fans don't deserve that.  The refund will come in the form of a credit against next year's season tickets. We want our fans committed for the long haul and we think this is the right thing to do for our fans.  As the owners of the club we reserve the right to do whatever we think we need to do to treat our fans the way they've treated us."

As competition for entertainment dollars persists at a sharp pace, the Sounders move poses an interesting question for the future.

What happens, especially in particularly high-priced markets in major cities, if a team performs well below expectations, as the Sounders management feels was the case Saturday against L.A.?

We know that players and coaches are subject to fines under certain conditions.

If management feels compelled to issue fan refunds for poor performances will others, such as players and coaches, be expected to shell out money?

The last cited possibility has a factual precedent.  It was reported that Oregon football coach Chip Kelly, after a strong complaint from a season ticket holder for the team’s poor showing in its 2009 opener against Boise State, who asked for his money back, the Ducks mentor wrote out a check in the full amount requested.

The season ticket holder did not cash the check but kept it as a souvenir to remind him that Chip Kelly was a man who meant business.