Monday, May 10, 2010

Watching your team lose is bad enough. Watching them get thumped is even worse, especially if you've had to travel for that privilege.

On a few occasions in recent years, clubs have felt so bad that they've refunded the fans their costs of watching the shambles. The most high profile of those this season was Wigan, following their 9-1 hammering at Spurs in November. The players themselves decided to make the gesture to their 400 strong travelling support.

Captain Mario Melchiot commented at the time that "we feel that as a group of players we badly let down our supporters. This is a gesture we have to make and pay them back for their tremendous loyalty".

I'm not sure if they're going to do the same after yesterday's 8-0 debacle at Stamford Bridge. Maybe nine is the magic number or maybe they've realised that they could be pretty skint by the end of each season at this rate. Alternatively they could just play better. I think the fans would prefer that to getting cash refunds all the time.

There's been other similar instances in the UK over the years, but it's usually been on a pretty small scale.

The latest Club to offer such a refund though is in America. Seattle Sounders suffered a 4-0 thumping by LA Galaxy at home on Saturday, in front of a club record breaking MLS attendance of 36,273.

They played horrid and Sounders general manager, and part owner, Adrian Hanauer said after the game "That wasn't Sounders soccer and it was quite frankly embarrassing, humiliating and the fans don't deserve that". Easy to say such words but even better when the Club back it up with a huge gesture.

And we really are talking huge here. The Club has made the decision to refund all season ticket holders for Saturday's game. The refund won't be in cash, but in the form of a credit for next season's season ticket package. That's not them shirking the payout, as Seattle had a 96% renewal rate on their season tickets for this year. So how many season tickets are we talking about? A massive 32,000! That's one hell of a lot of dollars to be crediting fans with, so well done to the Club for that.

Not all fans have been receptive to the idea. Some for reasons that I've mentioned above. They'd rather the team just did better than give token gestures. Others think it's a classy move by the front office.

Where does it all end though? What triggers such a move? A huge defeat, an embarrassing defeat to a much lower team or a local rival, a shit performance or just one where the players don't look to be trying hard enough?

I watched a really poor game on Saturday night. Vancouver Whitecaps and Crystal Palace Baltimore (yeah, don't ask) played out a scoreless bore draw where each team forced just one save for the entire 90 minutes. The Caps could have been called Craps. It was woeful and two hours of my life I'm not getting back. I deserved to be paid for watching it, not just have a refund! That said, the draw put Vancouver on top of their division so was it really that bad.

The danger when clubs start to issue refunds like this is not just criteria, but the fact that you're creating an atmosphere where fans expect it. I'm sure the Wigan fans could argue that they got their refund once for an eight goal hammering, wny not every time.

Looking at East Fife's just finished season, and some other clubs, if they started issuing refunds every time they played crap, we'd get a pretty cheap season. If they backdated that, then I could possibly retire!


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