Ugh. They couldn't even give us 24 hours to enjoy the cup win could they? If you're a season ticket holder, you probably got the same email I did from Toronto FC today, breathlessly promoting the exciting reasons to be coming out to BMO Field this summer. They did at least mention the extra games we'll get in CCL play, before excitedly letting us know about all the special promotions going on. If you loved the Cinco de Mayo stuff, and can't wait for support the troops day, then you'll no doubt come back for Caribbean carnival night (guess they didn't want to pay to use the word 'Caribana') or Oktoberfest, not to mention the Canada day or CNE day extravaganzas.
Add in the ever growing amount of kids brought on to the pitch before the game, and the super annoying dj behind the North Stand and we're getting closer and closer to cheerleaders, mascots, goal music and all the other North American gimmickry that is used to sell the game to those who aren't really all that interested in the game itself.
It all reminds me of when I went to the game at Chivas in 2010. Back then I wrote the following;
The bit that really scares me, and what I really hope to never see at BMO field, is what the club does to try and get the crowd involved. A mascot, cheerleaders, hundreds of people on the pitch involved with the pre-game stuff, all the usual North American razzmatazz that TFC refreshingly decided to avoid at first. Even worse was loud music and "goooooooooooooooooooooolllll" after each goal, drowning out the crowd at the one time they actually do get excited. Terrible. If the crowds don't come back to BMO and they end up having to resort to that sort of thing to try and attract new fans, well, that might be the moment I decide to give up my season tickets.
We're not quite at that level yet, and I think as long as all this stuff stays out of the 90 minutes of play, I'll choke down my annoyance and try to block it all out as best I can, but bloody hell this is getting depressing. I've written a few times before about how back in 2007, I didn't get season tickets right away, and it's precisely because of all this stuff. I can take crappy football, but I have very little time for the sort of marketing gimmicks and manufactured excitement that are rife in most sports these days (and not just in North America either sadly). I went to a few games though and it was the lack of such frivolities and the reliance on supporters to generate their own atmosphere that really sucked me in and turned me into a season ticket holder. This felt like a proper football match.
Make no mistake, TFC were still selling a gimmick, as it was always the supporters who were the cornerstone of every marketing campaign for a few years, but at least it was a real one. Aiming at supporters like this rather than the more family friendly promos that had been the main marketing tool previously was a model copied to various degrees by plenty of other teams through the league, as TFC were considered a great example, at least off the pitch, for what is known in some circles as MLS 2.0.
Sadly TFC weren't happy merely exploiting this fortunate circumstance, they decided they would start charging supporters more and more for the privilege as well. There've been other issues here and there with the Front Office, but the pricing, especially when combined with blithe brushoffs, apples and oranges and supply and demand and all that is what really led to the general sense of unease and anti-MLSE sentiment that can be seen out there. Add that feeling of exploitation and unappreciation to all the years of losing and it's no surprise that crowds have dwindled to the point where MLSE has had to switch from exploiting it's fanbase to trying to building it back up.
Sadly, rather than try and shore up their base and revert back to their original model of affordable tickets and an authentic atmosphere, they've chosen to maintain their pricing points (still right up there among the highest in the league in case you're wondering) and instead tried to attract new fans, by going with all the old sideshow gimmicks and one off promotion tactics that it seemed like MLS was outgrowing. I still get emails from Chivas after going to that game, detailing all the special events and promos they use to sell their games, and until very recently I could chuckle and think 'well at least we don't have to put up with this crap at TFC', but I'm not laughing any more.
You can maybe look at the crowds and all the empty seats at BMO Field, and say the old model failed, but make no mistake, it didn't die, it was killed off, exploited to death and now to be replaced by something much much worse. 0-9 is bad, but I can take that, I'll keep coming, but all these extra shiny distractions? Let's just say if I wasn't already a season ticket holder, I certainly wouldn't become one now.