In some CFL markets, fans flock to their team’s stadium on game day, not caring about the 4-10 record or the low number of all-stars that their team possesses. Other CFL franchises can be on a seven-game win streak, while half of their stadium’s seats lack fans to sit in them.
What are the reasons for this significant difference throughout the same league?
It does not matter if it is the United States or Canada. Every country has its own culture and within that country, different areas of it have their own unique tweaks to that culture.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are a prime example of an organization that is in a province that takes passionate ownership of its team. In years past, fans have shown up to games and displayed genuine excitement in supporting their Riders. Whether the quarterback was new signee Tino Sunseri or fan favorite and Saskatchewan legend Darian Durant, the Rider fanbase embraced whichever took the field.
In 2015-16 the Riders finished last in the West but still managed to average 31,189 and 31,327 respectively in fan attendance. Last season the Riders excelled under then head coach and general manager Chris Jones and finished the season with an average fan attendance of 32,057, second-best in the CFL.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers boast a similar culture of support as their dreaded rival Roughriders. From 2012 to 2015, the Bombers endured a four-year playoff drought. Through it all Manitoba faithfully cheered on the pride of their province while keeping ticket sales near equal to the franchise’s playoff-caliber seasons.
In 2013, the Bombers average fan attendance was 30,637, despite finishing last in their division. This past season the Bombers finished third in the West but averaged 26,880 fans per game.
Then there are organizations such as B.C. and Toronto who have a difficult time filling seats. Granted, if these teams are able to sign star CFL players, ticket sales will at times increase. But the culture in these markets makes it difficult for CFL teams to have thriving fan bases. Both the Lions and the Argos have had to close off their stadiums’ upper decks in order to condense the seating options for fans.
Interestingly enough, Toronto and Vancouver are the two largest-populated cities with CFL teams. Last season both teams combined for an average of under 35,000 fans per game.
The Riders and Bombers are in cities that don’t have the number of attractions that Toronto and Vancouver have. Instead, they mainly consist of hard-working, homegrown people who are in love with their football teams and are thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of something their entire province is in love with.
Toronto and Vancouver are in enormous markets that are home to many other high-profile sports teams. These cities are also two of Canada’s most attractive cities as far as weather goes, which gives fans more of a lure to do other activities besides watching a CFL game.
The Last Word
In Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, going to watch their CFL team take the field is the activity to do. These fanbases will still show up regardless of who’s on the field. They just want to see the boys play ball.
In Vancouver and Toronto, some of the city’s residents desire to know if the team has any players who are making a splash around the league as well as whether or not their team has one of the CFL’s best records. Often, these results will play into where the franchise falls in regard to ticket sales.
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