Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Playing the Game: The Ti-Cats vs. The Fans

It's always amazing to see the Hamilton Tiger Cats fanbase, while not the biggest city around they're very passionate about their football team! The Hamilton Bulldogs - Montreal's AHL affiliate - is definitely not enjoying much of a draw from the fans but then again the city has never been hockey first. While growing up in the Hamilton-Wentworth area I definitely felt that both basketball and football were more prominent than hockey, maybe it was because that's what I played but I thought it was also a trend with my friends at school.

Despite losing seasons the crowd still turned out for the Cats, in seasons where they couldn't manage more than 5 wins on the season there was still an average turnout of more than 26,000 in a stadium pegged to hold just under 29,000 (in that 5-13 season they actually averaged 800 people short of capacity, granted that was following a winning season still shows even some success translates very well in Steeltown). But recently, the attendance has started to slip, and for pretty obvious reasons...

Only averaging 21,153 this season while on the way to putting in a second consecutive 3-15 campaign, is not a good sign - really attendance has dropped by about 3,000 at a time these past few seasons. And it's for that reason that the season tickets prices will not budge, they will stay the same and there will be no extra charge, according to Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator. However therein lies the dilemma, especially since so much has been made about getting back in black for the Cats - Team President Scott Mitchell has stated publicly that the team will be run as a business, and so they are intending on making money. So the inevitable hit now falls on the single game ticket owner.

I don't know what the Tabbies are really trying to accomplish here because...well maybe they didn't get the memo, but the economy is as promising as a Fine Young Cannibals reunion tour right now (hey if it can work for the New Kids, one can always dream!). The Ti-Cats organization seems to believe that people will drop more money for an entire season rather than just for the occasional game here and there, even with a stagnant and inferior product on the field. I agree with not budging the seasons ticket prices but can't help but think that the logic behind this move is rather flawed...

Radley sums it up very well himself though in his article:

The reality is, there's only one way the bleachers at Ivor Wynne get filled again anytime soon. It's not a sales job. It's not a discount. It's not clever promotions, clean bathrooms, better concessions or even good weather.

It's winning. Period.

If the Cats could ever figure out how to do that with some regularity, ticket sales would take care of themselves and instead of worrying about crowd sizes, everyone could go back to complaining about the cost of beer.

This sort of move will effectively scare away the casual fanbase - as many hardcores as there are in Hamilton, you must always expand your reach to survive and a move like this contradicts that very notion! Yes you need to spend money to make money and they need to go out there and get the star players but they've done that already, signing Casey Printers and Kenton Keith makes it clear that Hamilton is willing to spend the dough to improve the team! More money for more players, who are even being shown up by current third stringers on the team, is certainly not the answer to righting the ship.

There's something wrong in Steeltown, and this life long Tabbies fan hopes that it's on the road to being corrected and not the other direction. When the crowd is out Ivor Wynne is one of the toughest places to play out of the entire CFL, I'm certainly one who is hoping to see that raucous crowd return sooner rather than later...

Why should fans buy rock-bottom Cat stocks?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In all seriousness, the Cats will get back to respectability when Bob Young allows Ivor Wynne to be Ivor Wynne again. That is, when he gets rid of the U.S. airport-style police presence, the annoying promotional contests squeezed in between every change of possession and, most importantly, acknowledges the role of the "Argos suck" chant in Ti-Cats culture.