The 2009 NFL season had some interesting components. A 2,000 yard rusher, two teams making a run at an undefeated season, the Lions notching their first win in over a season, and regularly blacked out games in some cities. There was no question that with a down economy, rising ticket prices, and, depending on what city you lived in, a lack of talent on the team that certain games would be blacked out.
The Tampa Bay area was lucky enough to have none of it's games blacked out. This wasn't due to hungry consumers, an overabundance of cash, or a playoff bound team, but relied on the timely, deep pockets of the owners. In order to keep each game on local TV, the Glazers had to dip into their pockets and pony up the cash for up to 15,000 tickets, depending on the game.
Now, we've all, to some degree accused the Glazers of being cheap, but to cough up this kind of cash is not an easy thing to do. But make no mistake, it was not only about keeping the games viewable, but about advertising dollars.
But enough of that. One area that I kept a close eye on this year was attendance. Way back in July, I wrote a piece asking if the poor outlook for the team would damage attendance. I was able to pull some numbers that showed the Bucs towards the bottom of the league in terms of % of seats filled. This was prior to the mass exodus of the team and firing/releasing of popular coaches and players.
Well, the results are in, courtesy of a TBO report focused on attendance. The numbers that they have (from the TSA) are of actual attendance, not tickets sold. Obviously tickets sold can be misleading.
That average stub count of 49,621 for 2009 marks a 10.1 percent drop from the average in-house attendance of 55,221 during the 2008 season, when Tampa Bay finished 9-7 in Jon Gruden's final season as head coach
That to me, while not shocking, is a great indication of local sentiment. The fans were not happy this year. Having been a season ticket holder for a few years, I can say unequivocally that I heard more booing, moaning, groaning, complaining, whatever you want to call it, that ever before. I also saw more empty seats then before and mroe opposing fans than before. I've never counted open seats or opponent's fans, but needless to say, for certain games, particularly Dallas and New Orleans, the numbers were startling.
Another interesting fact from TBO
Pathetic. But it's hard to blame the fans for not showing up. I was particularly miffed at the timing of our seat renewal fees coming 2 days before Brooks was cut. I can't blame fans for not taking their money and throwing it into a team that is perceived as not spending and being cheap. It would be nice to see an actual sell out, have the stands full of Bucs fans, but this just wasn't the year. Some may call those who boycotted the games bandwagon fans, but we as consumers and fans have a right to spend our dollars how we choose. I opted to go to the games, others did not.
From my previous article, I wrote
I don't post these numbers to show where we fell, but more as a reference point to look back at this year. If we plummet further, we can point to the growing dissent in the Tampa area. If we stay relatively the same, then all those people who swore they wouldn't go to Bucs games either A) didn't hold up to their word or B) were replaced by people with the willingness to spend. Perhaps if the games are truly sold out, it will show that public opinion doesn't matter, and people will show up regardless of the product on the field, the view of the team, and the inaction of the owners.
Will people show up? More importantly, will Bucs fans show up and preserve any type of home field advantage, or will visiting fans start to dominate the seats at the stadium? If you don't have the cash to shell out for tickets, I understand that, but the flip flopping fair weather fans seem to be taking over the vocal majority here. And with the growing pessimism, ticket sales have fallen (thus far).
Well, it seems attendance went down, categorized by local dissent. The problem will continue until a winning product is on the field. This is not rocket science. When (most) teams win, fans show up. The Bucs had very little support in the Creamsicle days. That support grew, as did ticket sales when a winner was put on the field. And now that the down year(s) are here, ticket sales and attendance have dropped.
It likely will take a year of lag time to catch up, but one thing is certain. Continuing on this path is not good for the Bucs, the fans, or the owners.