Champions League Tickets – How Much?
It seems like an eternity now, but it was only eight months ago when Tom Anselmi on behalf of MLSE stood up in a crowded room of irate fans at a Town Hall meeting at BMO Field and promised to remove CONCACAF Champions League tickets from 2011 season ticket packages. This was done in part due to the backlash the club found itself dealing with over increased season ticket prices for 2011 and unprecedented fan anger the team had never seen before in its short history.
And now with Champions League qualifying beckoning on July 27th the club has the challenge of trying to sell north of 20,000 tickets in just a bit over three week and fill up those pricey private suites that run the length of the west stands to boot. This was not as much of a problem in 2009 or 2010 when TFC played qualifying matches versus the Puerto Rico Islanders and CD Motagua respectively. In 2009 the announced attendance was 20758 for the Puerto Rico game. Last season versus Amado Guevara and company the announced attendance was 18891. In both cases these tickets were included in the seasons ticket packages so our friendly neighborhood ticket reps had a relatively small handful of ducats to move that were not already spoken for.
Now in just over three weeks TFC have to try and get as many fans onside and into the stadium as they can. I wish them every bit of success. But the level of success they do achieve here is completely within their own hands. And it all comes down to pricing.
And pricing these tickets at the going rates that customers are paying this season for regular season matches would be in my opinion a big mistake. Every empty seat in the stadium on game days is lost revenue, lost concession sales, and perhaps most importantly it makes the game day experience for those in attendance even less enjoyable that it could be if the house were near to full. In the abstract empty seats make those in attendance perhaps feel that they might have been gouged a bit as well.
And if these tickets are priced like just another regular MLS match I think yet another opportunity to create some goodwill amongst the fan base that attends these matches will be lost. On top of that the club here has to try and cast an eye past Real Esteli and remember that if they qualify for the group stages there are at least three more home dates that will need to be sold as well.
In the next couple of days season ticket holders and those on the waiting lists (such as the waiting lists are) will be receiving emails from the team explaining how ticketing will work and what the pricing structure actually will be. At the very least one can hope that there might be some sort of discount offered to those of us who choose to buy earlier rather than later. And committing early should perhaps also allow fans to qualify for some sort of discount for the group stage tickets that will need to be sold as well.
For a regular single ticket MLS match TFC charges prices this season ranging from a low of $27 in the supporters sections to a high of $97 for the club seats just behind the benches in the west grandstand. Premium matches start at a low of $41 and range up to a high of $121. Anything near these prices with the relative drop off in demand this season plus the short notice they have to move these tickets would be a huge mistake.
Dare I say it but why not drop the prices for the qualifier in half across the board? If they do so the chances of an embarrassingly low turnout drop and a lot of goodwill would be earned with the fans. Plus it will give many non season ticket holders the first chance to see Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans in action for the first time in person and give the club a additional opportunity to start leveraging these pricey new investments as a means to draw in casual or non committed fans to the TFC cause.
The game should always be the story. But if there is a new low record attendance at BMO on July 27th then I fear that however good the story on the field might turn out to be the story of empty seats might just be what might be remembered most once the story is told.
EDIT (5:00 PM – July 4th) : A couple of eagle eyed readers caught an error in this post. In 2009 the ticket for the Peurto Rico Islander game was included in the season ticket package. In 2010 the qualifier was part of a four game ticket package outside of the season ticket package altogether.