David Braley figures it will be about a month before the Argonauts decide whether to proceed with a couple of TV blackouts this season.
Let’s save the Argos owner and his Boatmen business-operations department the time and declare that no, blacking out two Argos home games in 2010 would not be sound practice.
But Braley, who took over the Argos in February from David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski, doesn’t want to make a decision on the potentially controversial move until he has all of the data on his desk.
“If you can’t see it on TV, you might want to buy a ticket,” Braley said from his vacation home in Florida.
“But how do you evaluate those things?
“(Blackouts) are just a part of a great list of things for us to consider.”
Braley long has been a supporter of blacking out games and did so five times in 2009 with his other Canadian Football League club, the B.C. Lions.
Without hesitation, Braley noted that Lions home games that were unavailable for the locals to watch in the comfort of their rec rooms resulted in an upsurge of 3,000-5,000 fans in the seats at B.C. Place. And back in the day, when he owned the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Braley said that Ivor Wynne Stadium typically would get 3,000 more paying customers when games were blacked out.
The Argos have the option of blacking out two home games, as per the CFL’s contract with TSN. A combined record of 7-29 in the past two seasons has led to a decline in attendance at the Rogers Centre (to an average of 26,374 last year from 29,189 in 2008), but Braley is not interested in papering the house.
He prefers that people who attend Argos home games are doing so with paid tickets. And with a ‘home’ game in Moncton in September against the Edmonton Eskimos, the Argos will play eight times at the Rogers Centre, not nine.
Would taking away from fans the privilege of watching two games on TV send them streaming downtown?
What if the Argos stumble badly in their first half-dozen games, and there’s a blackout looming for a club that is on a steady path for another losing season? On the other hand, consider the idea the Argos surprise many and get turned around quicker than expected. Why purposely shelve what would be a 3 1/2-hour infomercial?
Telling Argos fans, even those that are hardcore (which, more or less, is all of them), that they don’t have a choice of watching on TV would run the risk of alienation. For the guy, or girl, who watches the Argos as a casual observer, good luck increasing their interest if even just two games are not available for viewing. There are plenty of other options for fairweather fans of any sport in Toronto to spend their entertainment dollars. Lose them, and expect a hard fight to get them back.
Braley likes the player personnel moves that have been made since Jim Barker was hired as head coach, and believes the days of three or four wins a year are over. Braley is bang on when he calls the Toronto sports scene a “soft market,” considering that outside of the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League, the playoffs for the other pro Hogtown-based teams are events in which other teams participate.
“We have a chance here to reconnect with the marketplace, and how do you do it right?” Braley said. “We have to build the tent right. It’s far too early to say if we will have blackouts. But when we get to that part of the business plan, we will discuss it.”