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Friday, August 1, 2008

What rights do fans really have?

"Bennett Files Motion Against Sonic's Fans" reads a headline in today's Seattle Times. My favorite part of the story is this little gem: Bennett's attorney Steven Minson said the plaintiffs have a "fatal misunderstanding of the rights of a ticketholder."

Seattle's class action lawsuit probably has legs because if tickets were sold after the team had no intention of being in Seattle, perhaps you're looking at fraud and misrepresentation by the Sonic's owners. The likely result? Probably a refund plus interest. I doubt anything more. The interesting part of this is that there is no previous precedent for this type of claim. What happens going forward could change all of that.

It makes you wonder what rights the fans have and how seriously owners and team executives take them. How much value is placed on the fans? They're expected to be the revenue stream, buying tickets, concessions, merchandise, parking, etc, yet they are often treated with a pompous smugness by the owners. Not always, but enough that the fan is left treated like a second class citizen. That is not to say there are not great owners who do it right – there certainly are.

The greatest part of sports is the passionate fans. Passion driven by loyalty, intense rivalries and that dangling carrot - a potential playoff run culminating in a championship. The fans are the ones picking up the tab with their pocketbooks. I wonder if at some point a fan’s litigation, like this one, could change the whole landscape of the game and give some leverage back to the fans. Is it a stretch? Probably. The cost is high, the process long and our attention spans are notoriously short. Sometimes the best trials are the ones held in the court of public opinion.

If you’re a potential OKC season-ticket purchaser, you may want to ask your self something before committing that chunk of money: "Do I have a fatal misunderstanding of the rights of a ticket holder"?

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