Published on November 6, 2013 9:52 PM by dbo.
A cursory glance at the 2013 CFL attendance figures for the regular season versus the 2012 season sees a drop in the average attendance. With 4 teams up and 4 down, this may raise concern. However, 2013 was expected to be a down year and does not tell the whole story. Each year will have attendance fluctuations. While striving for sold out venues across the league year-after-year is ideal, it will take time to accomplish.
The 2013 league average was down 1,187 persons compared to 2012. This was only due to the temporary relocation of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the University of Guelph’s Alumni Stadium (and 1 game to Moncton). Assuming Hamilton played in last year’s Ivor Wynne Stadium with the same attendance numbers, the average attendance in 2013 would have been 28,557, an increase over 2012.
Those games in Guelph created greater peaks and valleys when looking at the weekly averages than past years. This is a one year anomaly that will be corrected when the Tiger-Cats return to their new stadium.
It should be noted that the variance figures on the 2013 attendance page are the difference between the team’s average and the league’s average. Five teams were above the league average and three teams were below, all East teams. In 2012 this was split four and four, with all four East teams below the league average (though Winnipeg was just barely).
The teams that dropped year-over-year have some givens (Hamilton, Toronto) and some surprises (BC, Edmonton). Even with the ability to enjoy an evening outdoors and out of the rain with the new retractable roof, BC can’t draw a crowd in the summer and fails to build any momentum in the fall. Toronto’s drop of 1,763 is unfortunate, but they did get a bump from the 100th Grey Cup last year. More importantly, there has been nothing but talk of a move out of Rogers Centre the last year. Uncertainty over the team and its home certainly has an affect on some subscribers, whether to take a “wait and see” attitude or something else. Edmonton’s drop isn’t so surprising when their slide over the past few years is considered.
The teams up over 2012 numbers also has its share of givens (Saskatchewan, Winnipeg) and surprises (Calgary, Montreal). Saskatchewan, with the 101st Grey Cup, expanded stadium, upcoming new stadium and competitive team is no surprise. Winnipeg’s numbers also surprised no one despite their season because of the new stadium. Calgary was up about 600 fans per game, a surprise because of the amount of fan criticism and press they receive on their attendance woes. I think the biggest surprise to many would be Montreal, who despite a poor season by their standards and injuries, was up about 550 fans per game.
The conclusion will continue to be forwarded that 2013 again only confirms the West supremacy in supporting its clubs. With Winnipeg’s return (officially) to the West in 2014, this will only persist. The point is moot, however. The East is going with smaller, intimate stadiums. They will not have the opportunity to compete in numbers with the West going forward. As long as they stay in business, the result is all that matters. Remember that at one time the East outdrew the West and supported western teams through gate equalization. Now that the numbers are reversed, with no gate equalization, the East is doing what is necessary to keep their clubs in business.
Next year sees a new stadium coming online in Hamilton and a new team added (in a new stadium) in Ottawa. Toronto is seeking a new, more intimate home by 2017. Regina’s new stadium is scheduled to come online in 2017. Calgary is expected to decide to renovate or construct new within the next 10 years. If Winnipeg’s experience is any indication, teams should see a bump from these new facilities initially, if not long term due to the improved experience theoretically. The goal of course is tickets hard to get it all cities, making team performance and weather less of factors, but 90% capacity is an achievable goal to shoot for.
Though the attendance total will increase, the league may not see a continually rising average to rival its 1978 peak. Smaller venues in the East place more emphasis on the health of clubs rather than a continually rising attendance average. Consistently packed parks will be the new measure.
Teams compete on the field during the pre-season, regular season and playoffs. They don’t compete with each other off the field. There their competitors are the other options for the entertainment dollar. Admonishing the fans attending the games for a teams poor attendance is misdirected. Would a Springfield McDonald’s customer criticize a Shelbyville McDonald’s customer because Springfield sold more hamburgers?
You can’t shame or guilt people into supporting the CFL, or a team, for public pride. They have to want to go. They have to believe they are missing something. A kid who thinks they are too cool to do something with the family has a change of heart when they are alone and bored and sees everyone else having fun. Introduce people to the game, the drama, the excitement, the fun or whatever gets them hooked. The more people at games, the more people talking about it, the scarcer the ticket, the more interest is driven in the community. Transplanted fans have to be CFL supporters, buy season tickets for their home team (if only to give to community groups) and wear their teams colours when they visit. There is nothing wrong with that. Being unable to support a team in your adopted new home is short-sighted. Everyone comes from somewhere, financial support does not indicate support in the heart.
Not everyone’s experience will be the same. Some people will like tailgating, some people won’t. Some people will like dressing up and face painting, some people won’t. Some people will identify and connect with the players and some people won’t. Some people will want their home team to win and some people will cheer for the other team. It is one league, made up of 9 clubs, only as strong as the weakest. Weakening one club only endangers the rest. Support your club on the field, otherwise back your league.