ACCC to ‘monitor’ sporting teams as AFL clubs begin to offer refunds

Australia World

Australia’s consumer watchdog says it will be watching closely as AFL clubs start offering to refund their members, who will likely be locked out of live games for the rest of the season.

It comes as the Port Adelaide football club today confirmed it will offer both full and partial refunds of membership fees to fans.

The Power has sent a message to all members with three options for the season, which re-starts in just over three weeks on June 11 after it was halted due to coronavirus.

Under the Power’s plan, members can stay with the club and maintain their membership or request either a full or partial refund.

Adelaide’s other AFL club, the Crows, will release a comprehensive plan tomorrow, including refund options for those members who paid upfront in full before the season began.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it had been “engaging with clubs” and confirmed it will “monitor issues relating to sport club membership refunds, credit and ongoing charges”.

“Many are offering a range of remedies to consumers, including refunds, suspension of ongoing payments or a credit for a 2021 membership,” the ACCC said in a statement.

Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas wearing a suit

Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas wearing a suit

Port Adelaide chief executive Keith Thomas said fans had several options.(www.portadelaidefc.com.au)

Under the Power’s partial refund option, the club would stop receiving monthly payments but hold over the balance already paid as “2021 membership credit”, while the fuller refund would attract a $40 administration fee.

“What we’re saying to our members is that we’d love you to stay, but everyone’s circumstances are different, we understand that,” chief executive Keith Thomas said, at the club’s Alberton headquarters.

“The season that we’ll be delivering will be different and so they need to make their decision around that.”

Mr Thomas said that less than 3 per cent of members had asked for a refund so far.

“I would have thought that our members would be wanting to find a way to support the club through this,” he said.

Adelaide Oval members can choose to seek a full reimbursement for their 2020 membership.

The venue’s website states members can also opt to receive a pro-rata credit for payments made due to the lockout, with the figure being deducted from the cost of a 2021 membership package.

Clubs urged to ‘do the right thing’

Clubs continued to charge members after the AFL came to a coronavirus-induced standstill after round one in late March.

President of the AFL Fans Association, Gerry Eeman, said all supporters must be provided the option to get their money back from the clubs.

Crows fans at Adelaide's game against GWS

Crows fans at Adelaide's game against GWS

The Crows will unveil their options for members on Thursday.(AAP: David Mariuz)

“When members are approaching their clubs individually and saying we can’t afford this membership, we’ve lost jobs, clubs are doing the right thing and refunding members — there just seems a reluctance to advertise the fact that they are doing so.”

Despite that, he said many supporters would want to continue to financially support their clubs.

“They’re concerned their clubs survive. Footy’s not a rational thing,” he said.

The Crows has previously told members who pay monthly that they have until today to opt out ahead of the next scheduled payment, although they could still contact the club at a later stage.

The club last month launched a campaign — led by the club’s past captains, including of its women’s team — urging fans to remain paid-up members.

“Maintaining your membership is the best way to ensure we get through this is a manner where we can continue to control our own destiny and pursue the type of success that we all crave,” Adelaide chief executive Andrew Fagan said in a letter to fan.

Both Adelaide and Port Adelaide were preparing to relocate to the Gold Coast ahead of the AFL re-start, due to South Australia’s tough border policy.

But after training restrictions for both AFL clubs were yesterday eased, they will be staying here for longer than previously planned.

Thomas today joined with SA Premier Steven Marshall in pushing to make the first match back a Showdown, keeping both clubs in the state for an extra week.

“I like the idea of getting a Showdown away earlier in the year so that means we can stay in Adelaide a little longer and I think it’d be a great spectacle to kick the season off,” he said.

The AFL is yet to release the fixture list for round two.

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