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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ARGO ATTENDANCE IN THE TOILET


TORONTO - After staving off a rousing rally by the Ottawa Redblacks, the Toronto Argonauts moved into a tie for first place in the CFL's East Division while upping their record to 6-2 for the first time since 1997.

They did it before just 14,748, the team's smallest draw for a Rogers Centre regular-season game since 2003.

Sunday's attendance was the lowest in the league this season, barring the 4,900 Toronto drew for a one-off game in Fort McMurray, Alta., in June.

Don't blame the weather. It was a glorious summer day, with sunshine streaming in through the open roof.

"I know I live downtown and I don't even know how many people even knew we had a game today,'' veteran defensive lineman Ricky Foley, a native of Courtice, Ont., in his second stint as an Argo, said after the game.

Foley, noting he's a football player not a businessman, wasn't pointing fingers. But he said the team's marketing department isn't getting much help.

"They're up against it right now. Their budget's a little low right now and it has been all off-season. They didn't have much to work with,'' he said. "I'd say they're doing as good as they can with it, but the PR and the marketing - I don't even know if they do have a budget.''

Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and Bell have bought the 142-year-old CFL franchise from David Braley. The old and new owners are working together this season, prior to the new regime taking over in 2016.

The Argos drew 20,642 in their only other regular-season home game under the dome this season, a Saturday evening win over Saskatchewan on Aug. 8.

"We had a terrific turnout of more than 20,000 enthusiastic fans to our home opener earlier this year,'' Argos CEO Chris Rudge said in a statement after Sunday's 30-24 win over Ottawa.

"We expected a lower-than-normal attendance for today's game against Ottawa, due to a number of reasons, and despite that we were treated to another enthusiastic crowd. We already expect a larger crowd for our next home game on Sept. 11 against Hamilton.''

A club spokesman said Rudge was unavailable Sunday evening to explain what those reasons were.

The empty seats come in stark contrast to the Blue Jays, the dome's prime tenants who also lead their division. The surging baseball team drew 46,792 for its last Rogers Centre outing - which is 6,000-plus more than the Argos' two games at the dome this season combined.

Foley pointed to the omnipresent ads promoting the Blue Jays, owned by the Rogers media conglomerate.

For some, the Argos' planned 2016 move to the more fan-friendly BMO Field can't come soon enough. Foley, for one, believes that the new ownership and home could up attendance by 5,000 to 10,000 a game.

"I think it will be a huge difference,'' he said.

"I think it will be a great environment for everybody,'' echoed quarterback Trevor Harris.

But social media suggests some believe the move is too little, too late for a franchise that faces plenty of opposition for the Toronto entertainment dollar. The Pan American Games did not help, with the team out of sight and out of mind.

Argos head coach Scott Milanovich's post-game news conference Sunday drew a handful of reporters.

Like Foley and Harris, Milanovich paid tribute to the fans who did come Sunday.

"We have a loyal fan base and they love the Argos,'' he said. "How many showed up today and why, I don't know. We really don't concern ourselves with it. Our players have done a great job responding to that.

"We've played in front of small crowds before,'' the coach added, referencing the Fort McMurray game.

"I think we all believe that as time goes on and the changes that are going to take place here with moving to BMO, I think we all have faith that our atmosphere will get better.''

As for ways to induce more fans to come to games, he said that was not his job.

The Argos averaged 47,356 in their heyday in 1976 at Exhibition Place. In 2014, the average Rogers Centre regular-season crowd was 17,791 - down from 21,926 in 2013 and 23,690 in 2012.

There have been valleys before - 15,083 in 2003 (when they went 9-9-0 and were taken over by the league) and 15,804 in 2001 (when they needed to win four of their last six games to go 7-11-0).

Toronto isn't the only city worrying about attendance. The B.C. Lions have drawn little more than 20,000 recently.

(Canadian Press/Neil Davidson)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

14,748 forgot the Jays were playing at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Look at all those empty seats in picture

Anonymous said...

Someday down the road, Ricky Foley would be a great CFL Commissioner.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, the CFL is dying.
Not sure why Regina would build a new stadium when the league will fold in 4-5 years.

Anonymous said...

Seems appropriate, Toronto and its sports teams are after all toilet material.

Anonymous said...

In the CFL if the Riders struggle, so does business. Things need to be turned around in Riderville STAT!

We are Canada's team.

Anonymous said...

yep the cfl is in trouble cant draw flies in the big markets tv numbers are trending downwards. if people in sask think the league can make a go of it without toronto you are kidding yourselves.

Anonymous said...

moving to BMO wont change a thing thats just grasping at straws. 6-8 years this league will be history. maybe regina can land an MLS franchise to be the main tenant when the cfl shutters operations.

Anonymous said...

Remember the wrestling boom in the 80's? Think of the CFL as the World Wrestling Federation and the Riders as Hulk Hogan. The Riders are the engine that drives the league.

Anonymous said...

CFL is garbage. Hopefully Regina will get an NFL farm team once the league folds in 3 years.

DONALD TRUMP

Anonymous said...

I would suspect if the CFL folded(which it won't) , NFL would set up shop in Regina. It makes sense.

CANADAS TEAM

Anonymous said...

Ballz - The Riders drive nothing. Eventually the torch was passed to Randy Savage, Brett Hart and then Sean Michaels, so on and so forth. It's about getting over the next wave of talent.

If the check cashes you want to play in Toronto. Win game, and nobody bothers you. Perfect.

Anonymous said...

are you kidding???? or out of your mind?

Anonymous said...

This story instantly becomes a 'non-story' by this same time next year.

The new outdoors stadium will, without doubt, be a hit with the traditional football crowd, as well the new younger crowd (the next generation of fans). Similar to the MLS crowd that sings and yells and has so much fun at the Toronto FC games, the football crowd will be feeling it as well, at this great outdoors venue. Especially in that they are not in that great big empty stadium where it is Blue Jays only...

Mark my words, 'next year at this time this is a non-story'.

Kel in Victoria

Anonymous said...

Delusions .... and what about vancouver who probably gets 17K in real attendance, montreal the same. calgary one the best teams in the league gets maybe 22. cfl ship is taking on water. tv #s will continue to dip also. the nfl is aaa black angus cfl an old can of spam