Yesterday saw a brief Twitter debate surrounding the possibility of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment institution season ticket price increases despite yet another waste of a season, particularly after Kurt Larson wrote this provocate Tweet, met with some anger in TFC circles:
Don’t get me wrong,
#TFC SSH holders deserve a price reduction, but threatening to walk away tells me a lot about your support for the game.
— Kurtis Larson (@KurtLarSUN) August 29, 2012
Meanwhile Duane Rollins smartly framed the discussion on Canadian Soccer News this morning, and he made the case for price “rollbacks” based on seniority:
Those that have been on board since day 1 get a bigger rollback than those that have only held season tickets since last year. Although length of time someone has held the tickets is not a perfect measure of a fan’s loyalty, it’s one of the few that can easily be identified.
Using this formula a new season ticket holder for 2013 would pay 2012 prices, 2012 buyers get (for example) 5 percent off, 2011 10 percent, 2010 15 percent and so on down to original holders that would get 30 percent rollback.
One can almost hear the chuckling from 50 Bay Street.
Lars Lowther however calls for the Nuclear Option: stop going to games. While I’m not normally a “Boycott Now!” person in the realm of sport, Lowther is probably right.
With most professional sports teams, success involves a difficult alchemy of spending, coaching, front office activity, player development, facilities, sponsorship deals, fan base, revenues, etc. In leagues without stringent revenue-sharing rules and strict salary caps, clubs have to prudently spend on players in the hopes of slowly building up a fan base to increase income in a kind of positive feedback loop (dear physics: I’m aware there may be no such thing as “positive feedback loops”). Those who think Rogers “should just spend more money” for the Blue Jays to win more games don’t quite understand that the club revenues should come first. As those of us in the soccer world should know, big pocketed investors underwriting major losses in professional sport, especially in a sport where talent is so ephemeral, in the hope of short term game is a recipe for financial disaster.
But it’s hard to be charitable when it comes to Toronto FC. It’s clear from ex-player comments, including remarks made by Julian De Guzman in relation to his time at BMO Field, that there is no clear leadership or direction at the club. Moreoever, in addition to enjoying a relatively level playing field as part of MLS’ single-entity financial model, Toronto has enjoyed gates and revenues the envy of the league. They were nominated as Professional Sports Team of the Year by SportsBusiness magazine in 2008. Despite five consecutive seasons of utter uselessness, season ticket renewals, while weakened, are still impressive when compared to MLS’ smaller markets.
So what’s the problem here? Unfortunately, it’s exactly what you think it is, at least if you agree with the conclusion of a Conference Board of Canada investigation last November into why Toronto’s teams are well-supported even though they’re total and absolute balls at what they do:
In short, a strong local market means there is less urgency for many Toronto teams to achieve the same success competitively as they are having financially. And unlike in smaller markets where teams may need to win in order to be financially successful, teams in Toronto can struggle on the field or ice but still be financial success stories.
So the oldest and simplest (and therefore the most looked-down on by journalists) answer is likely the right one. Toronto FC suck because 18,000 people still go to games. So I’m with Lowther on this one.
Because, in a perfect world, a drastic drop off in gates (and TV viewing numbers) for Toronto FC would result in one of two things: MLSE selling the team to an individual owner/investor, who tend to have more invested in a team’s success than a large corporation owned by another large corporation. Or, MLSE simply taking the time to study league best practices and implement wholesale changes in the way Toronto FC operates. Like, a unity of vision from the top executive brass down to the guys selling beer in the stands. Front office executives with a strong soccer background. That sort of thing.
Until that happens, the only success Toronto FC will enjoy will be the kind that eventually reverts back to the mean.
Oh, and here’s the CanMNT roster for the crucial upcoming qualifiers against Panama:
1- GK- Lars Hirschfeld | NOR / Vålerenga Fotball
2- M- Nik Ledgerwood | SWE / Hammarby Fotboll
3- FB- Ante Jazić | USA / Chivas USA
4- CB- Kevin McKenna | GER / FC Köln
5- CB- André Hainault | USA / Houston Dynamo
6- M – Julian de Guzman | USA / FC Dallas
7- M – Terry Dunfield | CAN / Toronto FC
8- M- Will Johnson | USA / Real Salt Lake
9- F- Tosaint Ricketts | ROM / Politehnica Timişoara
10- F- Simeon Jackson | ENG / Norwich City FC
11- FB- Marcel de Jong | GER / FC Augsburg
12- CB- Dejan Jaković | USA / D.C. United
13- M- Atiba Hutchinson | NED / PSV Eindhoven
14- M/F- Dwayne De Rosario | USA / D.C. United
15- CB- David Edgar | ENG / Burnley FC
16- M- Pedro Pacheco | POR / CD Santa Clara
17- F- Olivier Occean | GER / Eintracht Frankfurt
18- GK- Milan Borjan | TUR / Sivasspor
19- FB- Ashtone Morgan | CAN / Toronto FC
20- M – Patrice Bernier | CAN / Impact Montréal
22- GK- Kenny Stamatopoulos | SWE / AIK Fotbol
This spurred my “Tweet of the Day”:
Hart says Samuel Piette was not called simply because he’s not playing competitively.
— Gerry Dobson (@SNGerryDobson) August 30, 2012
Ah Canadian soccer: where people question why a player not playing competitive football wasn’t selected for the national team.