“You win some, you lose some”. It’s a phrase that applies to all sporting contests, and football is no exception. Sometimes you win 3-1, sometimes you lose 2-0. Or in Sunderland’s case, you could go all out and lose 8-0.
Of course large margins of victory – or defeat – are a natural part of the game, and as such teams should not be held to ransom for poor performances. Sunderland however seem to disagree, as they have said they’ll reimburse any one of the 2,500 fans that took the 640 mile round trip to Southampton.
It seems admirable that a Premier League club has such love and respect for their fans that they just couldn’t bear to see any of them suffer due to supporting their team. But wait, I thought the whole point of following a team is that you stick with them through thick and thin? It may seem like a tangent, but to quote Marilyn Monroe, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”.
It sets a dangerous precedent for Sunderland and any other club that deems a performance so abject that they must pay out to fans. At what point does a club stop thinking “Yeah, ok, we didn’t play great today”, to “Oh no, we were so terrible that our fans shouldn’t even pay to watch us”? Is it 4-0? Is it 5-0? Is it 8-0?
The question is of course subjective. Surely a team like Chelsea losing 3-0 to a team like Burnley (no offence Burnley) would be just as annoying to their fans as Sunderland’s loss to Southampton? If it is solely based on score line, then the worse teams in the league are much more likely to find themselves on the wrong end of lopsided results, and thus be expected to refund supporters more often: it’s just not economic.
If it is expected for clubs to refund poor displays, then is fair for them to charge more for fantastic ones? No, is the simple answer. Football, and sport in general for that matter, is not about guaranteed satisfaction. It’s about the ups and the downs. If you can’t handle those lows then don’t spend your hard earned cash on tickets. Football clubs shouldn’t advertise themselves with slogans like “Even if we lose, you’re still a winner” or “Don’t worry about losing, it’s on us”: it’s not what sport is about.
Having said all this, I can see the logic in refunding supporters of a team that under-performs for vast periods of time. Fans of the Detroit Lions for example could be justifiably aggrieved after their team lost every single one of its games in the 2008 season. Repeated disappointment is something that can be massively frustrating for fans, as it can seem that players and coaches just don’t care. As such it is understandable that teams may wish to show their gratitude for continued support.
Still, this idea comes with a caveat: should teams that go undefeated be allowed to charge higher prices for their tickets? I’m looking at you here, Arsenal. The answer is still a resounding no.
However nice it may appear, clubs reimbursing supporters for one poor display is unnecessary and quite frankly stupid. I’m not saying fans shouldn’t be disappointed if your team plays badly, but don’t expect a reward for it.
As the teacher always said; it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part.