TFC has become a tough ticket to sell

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:11 PM ET

TORONTO - Looking for something to do Saturday afternoon?

Were you thinking about buying tickets and heading to BMO Field for Toronto FC’s home opener but assumed the game would be sold out?

If so, then good news as there are plenty of tickets available. The once hot ticket in town continues to cool off.

You want to go to the game with a buddy to see your Reds take on the Portland Timbers? No problem. Two tickets together are readily available.

Is your four-person family interested in a day out? What about you and five friends? And if you’ve got an even bigger party — think the Brady Bunch minus Alice — eight tickets together are still available. Ticketmaster.ca shows a wide array of tickets can be purchased in sections 104-to-106 in the $51.00 to $75.50 range.

The surprising number of tickets available has to be alarming to a club coming off four consecutive years of announced sell-outs for their home opener. Sources say ticket sales have been a massive struggle for the 2011 season. It appears the inferior on-field product and steep ticket price increases have finally caught up with them.

A poor performance in Vancouver in a 4-2 loss to the expansion Whitecaps on Saturday does little to whet the ticket-buying appetite.

And the thought of a rebuild for the team that has next to no team success is unbearable.

Toronto FC has long bragged about having a substantial waiting list in the thousands for season tickets. Yet it appears the ‘list’ may have been more smoke and mirrors than anything else, or those waiting for tickets have also soured on the team and the price tag. Many educated soccer fans who gave the Toronto team a chance from Day 1 have long since turned away.

For the first time since its inception, there has been a real push by Toronto FC to sell tickets this off-season.

Marketing dollars have been spent advertising half-season and single-match tickets.

Year 5 branding became essential after the club rode a wave of discontent during its season-ticket campaign. Fan protests against the club didn’t help public perception; a failing team with always be a tough sell in Toronto for every team not named the Maple Leafs. And despite Toronto FC essentially giving season- ticket holders Saturday’s game for ‘free’, overall rates of renewal are considered disappointing from where the team was at a short time before.

BMO Field was expanded before last season with the north-end stands.

The new stands were regularly far from full and virtually empty during CONCACAF Champions League matches.

Despite its on-field struggles, Toronto FC has always been able to lean on its superior attendance and stadium experience. With the prior waning, it’s clear the honeymoon is over for Toronto’s sweetheart club. Supporters may have unparalleled passion in the city, but the ticket isn’t Teflon.

Toronto FC’s box-office concerns may be only temporary, with MLS on the rise in Canada. Saturday’s game against the Whitecaps on TSN was the most watched MLS match ever in Canada television, attracting an average audience of 289,000 viewers.


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