Why Sports Stars Should Refund Fans If They Fail To Entertain

Spectators at the WTA Finals last week in Singapore would have been mightily disappointed. 

Possibly irate if they’d been there for the singles and the doubles finals. In fact they would have been bang to rights to ask for their money back.

In the singles Serena Williams crushed Simona Halep 6-3, 6-0, while in the doubles Cara Black & Sania Mirza totally annihilated their opponents 6-1, 6-0.

For sports fans, this does not constitute good value for money. The doubles result was just points away from being a double bagel.

Rarely has there been such a one-sided climax to the WTA's year-end finale. This is supposed to be the flagship event in women's tennis. Can you imagine if there was a walkover like this in both the singles and doubles at the ATP World Tour Finals in November?

So should the Singaporean spectators demand their money back? And if the tournament organisers agreed, should certain players forfeit prize money?

There's actually a very recent precedent... But in football rather than tennis.

It involves Premier League side Sunderland FC. After wilting to an 8-nil defeat (their worst in 32 years) against Southampton, they offered to refund fans the cost of their match tickets. It was a gesture originally mooted by the goalkeeper Vito Mannone who got to know the back of his net all too intimately that day. 

“We threw in the towel,” he admitted. But it's fair to say the entire team shared in the ignominy of the annihilation. 

“We win and lose as a team, players, staff and fans,” said the Sunderland captain John O’Shea. “However, we wanted to acknowledge and thank the supporters who travelled such a long way to give us their backing and despite everything, stayed with us until the final whistle.”

Fans can reclaim the cost of admission, or choose to have the money given to a local children’s charity. It could potentially cost the players more than £60,000. (Just pocket money for your average Premier League footballer) 

Back in Singapore, a spectator-ticket refund might cost Simona Halep considerably more since she would have to refund everyone present. (Not just her own fans, as in the case of Sunderland.) However, she has earned more than $6.5 million during her short career. It might prove to be a lesson well learned.

For the under-performing doubles team (Chinese-Taiwanese duo Shuai Peng & Su-Wei Hsieh), whose career earnings are substantially lower, a ticket refund would hurt more. But, of course, there are two of them to spread the load.

Fining under-performing players will always be a tricky sanction to impose. Without climbing into a player’s brain, or soul, how can we truly know whether they lost through lack of effort or just through sheer incompetence? 

It’s all very well deducting prize money from a top tenner who loses double-bagel to another top tenner. But you can hardly impose the same sanction on a young rookie who gets spanked first round by the defending champion.

And if customers are entitled to refunds for poor sports performances, then surely the rule should apply to the arts, too?

Who hasn’t been tempted to moan at the manager of one’s local multiplex after exiting a particularly poor Jason Statham film?

I saw a rubbish Kings of Leon gig at London’s O2 not so long ago. If I hadn’t been in such a hurry to get home, I might have had the nerve to demand my money back.

The next Grand Slam is the 2015 Australian Open. Novak Djokovic is the favourite to win at 2.50 followed by Rafa Nadal at 5.00 Roger Federer at 6.00 and Andy Murray at 6.50.

In the women’s draw, Serena Williams is favourite at 2.62 followed by Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova - both 6.00 - and Simona Halep at 7.50