Consumer Law

Paying the Price for Losing Makes Fans Cheer

It's not often you hear of a recreational activity with a money-back guarantee. But that's just what a Seattle soccer team did. The Seattle Sounders offered its fans a one-game credit for what the team's owner called an "embarrassing, humiliating" 4-0 loss to the LA Galaxy.

Soccer Team Aims to Please

When the Seattle Sounders suffered a disappointing 4-0 loss in a match against the LA Galaxy. In the aftermath, one of the players remarked that the team played so bad their fans should get a refund; the team's owner agreed.

While the refund wasn't a cash-back return of the ticket price, it was nearly that. Season ticket holders were given a one-game credit. The team's co-owner and general manager explained they want their fans to stick with the team "for the long haul." The credit showed appreciation to their fans.

Refunds for Sporting Events are Rare

Pay your admission to the local swimming pool and expect a refund if a thunderstorm happens just five minutes later, closing the pool? What if you buy a ticket to a golf tournament it's cancelled because of weather? Most likely, you'll simply be out of luck.

Many recreational facilities and sports arenas warn you of these risks if you read the fine print on your ticket or on signs posted at the admission gate the ticket or sign is viewed as a contract.

In exchange for admitting you to the location or event at a given price, you're agreeing to your entrance on certain terms. And those terms can include fairly one-sided accounts of what will happen if the weather or other events beyond the owner's control prevents you from enjoying the sport.

That's why the Seattle Sounders' offer to fans seems so novel. Fans aren't used to getting refunds for weather cancellations, let alone a bad game. And the terms of the ticket undoubtedly didn't require the owners to give this credit, just as the ticket holders don't have to accept the offer of a free future game.

Sports Arenas Can Keep the Peace

Another part of the contract between the arena or owner and the ticket purchase likely displayed on the ticket and in the arena or entryway is the duty to protect people in the arena or location. Even though sports events are open to the public, the owner or manager has a legal duty to ensure the safety of the fans.

For this reason anyone who appears intoxicated, improperly dressed or are combative toward security personnel, staff or other spectators or who smuggles in contraband can be thrown out. And you have no legal right to remain on the premises. Even celebrities.

Stars seem to revel in photographs snapped of them attentively watching the LA Lakers or New York Knicks in action, but if these stars, engage in disruptive, combative or unruly behavior, the sports arena, team owner or manager is well within their legal rights to oust them from the event. In fact, they'll likely be putting themselves at greater risk, legally speaking, if they are aware of but don't do anything about the disruption and someone is injured.

Enjoy being present at a sports event or other activity can be a fun and exciting way to spend time. Just remember the ticket you purchased is more than just your proof of entry, it's a contract between you and the event-holder.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Under what circumstances can I get a refund of my sports event ticket?
  • Can fans of other teams use this to sue other teams for ticket refunds?
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