Saturday, September 30, 2006

2005 Attendance: What We Know Now

I'm sure by now most of you have read the amazing story out of the San Diego Union-Tribune, where the attendance numbers of MLS are de-mystified and fully explained.

Average MLS Attendance

Paid 10,746
Comps 3,090
Total Distributed 13,836
Total Announced 15,118

So basically, MLS lies about the attendance to the tune of 1,282 fans per game. That's 9.3%, just made up out of thin air. MLS President Mark Abbott offers some weak explanations about why the announced number is higher than the distributed, but don't buy it: "In 11 straight matches at Columbus, it was exactly 1,000 people higher."

At the very least it's incredibly lazy and inaccurate.

Team by Team

Paid Comps Distributed Announced
Chicago 12,104 2,523 14,628 17,238
Chivas USA 12,121 4,821 16,942 17,080
Colorado 8,058 3,485 11,543 13,638
Columbus 8,608 3,735 12,342 12,916
Dallas 6,634 3,864 10,498 12,525
DC United 11,982 3,186 15,169 16,664
Kansas City 7,004 1,917 8,921 9,691
Los Angeles 19,940 3,214 23,155 24,329
New England 9,725 1,472 11,197 12,525
New York 9,956 3,776 13,732 15,077
Real Salt Lake 12,689 3,009 15,697 18,037
San Jose 10,134 2,077 12,211 13,037

Total 10,746 3,090 13,836 15,118

It's always disappointing when people lie to you. San Jose fans have to be especially upset after seeing how their team is 6th is paid attendance (vs 8th in announced). But I think everybody already expected the lying, and it's not uncommon for sports teams to do that sort of thing. Doesn't make it right though.

Now, I want to post the lists Andy_B did on Bigsoccer, aka the "fudge factors," along with the comps percentage that he also did.

Fudge Factors

% Comps Paid vs Ann Dist vs Ann
Chicago 17.2% 42.4% 17.8%
Chivas USA 28.5% 40.9% 0.8%
Colorado 30.2% 69.2% 18.1%
Columbus 30.3% 50.0% 4.7%
Dallas 36.8% 68.7% 6.6%
DC United 21.0% 39.1% 9.9%
Kansas City 21.5% 38.4% 8.6%
Los Angeles 13.9% 22.0% 5.1%
New England 13.1% 28.8% 11.9%
New York 27.5% 51.4% 9.8%
Real Salt Lake 19.2% 42.1% 14.9%
San Jose 17.0% 28.6% 6.8%

Total 22.3% 40.7% 9.3%

So what can we take from all this? I don't think there's anything really too shocking. It was obvious that MLS gave away a lot of comps, and that the real attendance was lower than the announced. It was published previously in a NJ article that the turnstile counts for the Metros in 2004/5 were 64.8% and 61.3% of the announced number, and actually closer to 50% if you take out doubleheaders. As I've mentioned before, the important thing now is to get stadiums built. Once the league is profitable, then you can improve level of play and marketing which will then increase the fan base.

Ziegler in the article says that sponsors did not have access to this "Game Attendance Summary," although Radioshack says they aren't bothered by it. I'm sure that they know exactly what's going on before putting their money in. That's why this report doesn't matter much, because the league is getting tons of new money regardless. In a way, the fact that such a story is being written about the league is a sign that MLS is moving up. I remember back when contraction occured that I was actually happy that the league didn't get much media coverage. With increased coverage comes increased criticism and pressure, and that's a good thing. Paul Gardner and Grahame Jones were just ahead of their time.

Comments on "2005 Attendance: What We Know Now"


Anonymous Joe said ... (6:40 AM, September 30, 2006) : 

Well put. What I worry about is that the league has lied itself into a corner. There will be pressure to provide more accurate numbers now. That opens the door to an apparently drastic drop in attendance numbers next year, which opens the door to more bad publicity.

Good point about the money coming in. But we need more butts in the seats even more than we need more dollars. More accurately, more butts in the seats is the ideal way to raise more of those dollars.


Blogger Midwestsurfer said ... (5:17 AM, October 01, 2006) : 

Lol, Paul Gardner ahead of his time? Thats original.

I see more as a grouch.

Everyday since the Cosmos folded I think he has woken up on the wrong side of the bed.


Blogger ERic said ... (12:39 PM, October 02, 2006) : 

Yeah, I'm not sure that more scrutiny at this point is a good thing. I don't think MLS is at a point where it can weather a lot of scrutiny yet.

It's getting better, getting closer, but it's not there yet.

BTW, this is something that I have bitched about since the beginning of MLS. The USL does this all the time, and USL teams have been doing it since the beginning of the USL. Giving away tons of tickets, then trying to claim that they're getting fabulous attendances. Fudging the numbers.

I can honestly say that the Austin Lone Stars, when I was involved with the team, were reporting accurate numbers. I stood at the gate and clicked a little hand clicker for every person that came through the gate.

When we had an attendance of 1,000, it was a legitimate 1,000.

But that's neither here nor there regarding MLS. My main beef is that this is something that me and others like Kenn and Andy have been bitching about for ten years. Sad to see it come home to roost this way. And I hope MLS can weather the storm.


Blogger scaryice said ... (8:09 PM, October 02, 2006) : 

Midwest, my point is that MLS needs people to talk about the things that are wrong with it, so it can improve. I DO think that it's "safe" to talk about the shortcomings now, since it's gonna survive no matter what.


post a comment