It some ways it was easier for Toronto FC in the beginning. A fresh start in a soccer specific stadium – we owe some thanks to the 2007 U20 World Cup – along with the excitement that accompanies a new professional sports team in town was enough the make a ticket to BMO field a hot commodity heading into the club’s inaugural season. The average attendance mark has hovered around the 20,200 mark for five seasons, an impressive feat considering the lackluster product on the field.
The Whitecaps spent their first season in the MLS at Empire Field, waiting for the renovations to BC place to finish. Average attendance was third best in the league, coming in just ahead of Toronto and behind fellow left coasters Seattle and Los Angeles.
Alright. So we’re clear – professional soccer can thrive in Canada, idiot. Montreal would join Vancouver and Toronto as key pillars in the MLS – strong ownership coupled with vocal local support is what this league is all about.
Half way through the season the above isn’t false. The club has been ambitious, bringing in former Serie A stars Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta during the season as designated players. On the day Nesta was introduced to the media the club cut ticket prices for the rest of the season. After drawing huge numbers for the club’s first two regular season games attendance has fallen off drastically since the Impact moved back to the renovated – and extremely nice – Stade Saputo.
Bill Beacon has the numbers:
Since moving back outdoors to Saputo Stadium, they have attracted 17,112 against Seattle, 12,357 for Houston and a disappointing 14,412 for Di Vaio’s debut against Toronto FC on June 27. Only 12,085 watched their 3-1 loss to Kansas City on Wednesday night.
With a capacity of just over 20,000 seats that is pretty bad. On a day that should have been a celebration, Joey Saputo was openly wondering why attendance figures were so low. From my limited experience in the federal government I know that while Saputo is the public face, a slew of employees are getting verbally destroyed by their bosses. Something isn’t working.
Mount Royal Soccer’s Gio Sardo created a guide to selling out Stade Saputo late last week, it’s a terrific read. Among his many issues – staying clear of the homeristic officiating excuse – is the poor marketing campaign put forward by the club. The organization looked to social marketing to figure out what the hell was going on:
The Impact were so perplexed about the erratic attendance figures in their MLS expansion season that they conducted Twitter and Facebook surveys to find out why there were so many empty seats in their 20,000-seat stadium. They found the chief obstacle for fans was high prices for top-end tickets.
So what say you Impact supporters? Is it the high ticket prices, lack of marketing presence, poor scheduling, sketchy officiating (vomit) or all of the above? Inquiring minds would like to know.