Soccer club hopes fans pay back with interest


Norwegian soccer team Harstad Sports Club takes the term "paid customers" literally.

The club team from Harstad, a town of 23,000 people located 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is giving spectators $1.39 each to show up for a match against second division rival Staalkameratene.

"For our recent games, less than 100 people have shown up, and we want to attract more," said Gunnar Berg, a member of the club's board. "Second division soccer is not exactly what draws the big crowds."

The fans are to be paid by five local sponsors, including Berg's furniture store.

"The five sponsors are really hoping that this will cost them as much as possible," Berg said.

Bank shots

The Atlanta Hawks, who haven't made the NBA playoffs in three seasons, aren't desperate enough to pay fans to come to their games, but they are offering every full-season ticket-holder $125 if the team fails to qualify for the 2002-03 postseason.

That's a $500,000 bet for the Hawks, based on last year's sales of about 4,000 packages at between $1,025 and $3,485 each.

If the team does make the playoffs, full-season ticket-holders will get the first playoff game free.

Hearing about the program, Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer suggested these rebates for the Cleveland Cavaliers:

The Floor Burn Rebate: Wes Person and Lamond Murray, not known for their blue-collar defense, will get at least two nasty scrapes diving for loose balls or you get $10. If they are fighting each other for the ball because neither feels he is getting enough shots, the rebate jumps to $20.

The Tyrone Hill Rebate: $10 if the player who was the subject of more recalls than the Ford Pinto hurts his back during a game; $15 if he hurts it during practice; $20 if his back is healthy enough for him to play but he simply finds the Cavs' colors a fashion faux pas.

The Ricky Davis Rebate: A crisp Alexander Hamilton is yours if Davis sees a shot he doesn't like.

Shelter from the Storm

The Seattle Storm, which had the lowest attendance in the WNBA in 2000-01, offered fans money-back guarantees at three home games this season if they didn't like the game.

A man and woman sitting together at a June 21 game against the Indiana Fever asked for a refund because they insisted "We should have beat them by more," Storm spokeswoman Valerie O'Neil said, quoting the complaint.

Seattle won, 63-51. The fans got their money back.

Two days later, a man bought a ticket at 6:45 p.m. for a Sunday game that had tipped off 45 minutes earlier. Sunday games often start at 6 p.m., but the man thought it was a usual 7 p.m. start, O'Neil said.

He told team officials the woman who sold him the ticket didn't tell him the game had already begun. He arrived at halftime.

"We had a witness that she told him, but he got his money back," O'Neil said. "Hey, we're all about making people happy."

The three refunds amounted to less than $50, she said.

Storm coach Lin Dunn said that if she were attending games her complaint would be this: "I'd leave saying the tickets were too cheap."

Not for a sub-.500 team, they're not. At least Dunn didn't suggest giving fans money back if Seattle failed to make the playoffs.

No jangling Spurs

Speaking of money back, Dan Cook of the San Antonio Express-News says he keeps hearing the same joke since the Spurs were eliminated from the NBA playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers last spring:

"What's the difference between the Spurs and a dollar bill? Well, for a dollar you get four quarters."

Deep-pocketed seats

The New York Knicks, who failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in 15 seasons, decided not to raise ticket prices after raising them every year since 1988.

Movie director Spike Lee, who paid $131,000 for two courtside seats at Madison Square Garden this season, jokingly told the New York Daily News: "That's great. Now I can send my kid to college."

Lee is one fan who can afford a rise in ticket prices.

Last season, he donated the courtside seat for Michael Jordan's debut with the Washington Wizards to a charity auction, and the winning bid was for $101,300.

Wrote Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle: "We believe that's the most expensive seat since New Jersey's Jon Corzine spent $35 million of his own money last year to win a Senate seat."

Salary restructuring

The Chronicle's Scott Ostler had this to say about Alex Rodriguez getting a $100,000 All-Star Game bonus:

"The way it should work: You get $25 mil a year and if you don't make the All-Star team, you keep $100,000 and give back the rest."

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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