So far we have seen a lot of different wishes from our three Christmas dreamers this week. We had Duncan wishing to see the days of the club being the butt of jokes ending, James wished for a stronger sense of community, while John had a bunch of wishes but the main thrust was that he wants TFC to be a better team.
For me the wish really is another simple one, but still one that is much easier said than done. My wish is for the buzz to come back. If you were around Toronto FC in the early days of the club there was an electricity around BMO Field for every single game and more than that TFC was at the forefront of the conversation around many a water cooler and in the eye of the media.
So all that I am asking for is that we find a way to bring the buzz back to the Toronto soccer scene. My wish is in part a challenge to fellow fans, and myself, but also a challenge to the club to try and repair some of the damage that has been done to their relationship with supporters.
The upcoming CCL match that will be played at Rogers Centre is the perfect stage to do something to bring this buzz back so in part my wish is that Toronto FC makes the most of this chance and puts on a show that Toronto media and the rest of the MLS just can't ignore.
The first part of my wish to bring back the buzz has to do with fans. Personally I did not make it to as many TFC games as I would have liked to this year and when I did go my participation was not on the level it should have been. For that I feel bad as I could be counted among the thousands at games who seem to have developed a fair level of apathy when it comes to match days. When the fall came around and the national team was in town I got a strong reminder of what it can be like to support with all my heart and really investing myself in match days. All three pregames at Maro were something that I realized were a big part of being a supporter for me and something I had missed. Add to that being in the heart of the south stand and feeling the need to drive the team on and it brought back the buzz for me. So my part in this wish is to make sure that any time I am at a TFC game and not in the press box I do my part to create that same feeling.
My wish is also a call for the rest of you to do the same. If you plan on going to any games in the coming season, even more so that CCL game, I wish that you will do your part to bring back the buzz. Maybe that means you stand up and cheer just a bit more, maybe you go a step further and try to get your section a bit more vocal. Either way if the buzz is going to come back those of us who do not sit in the south stand need to do their part to make sure the rest of the stadium is loud and proud. As for the South stands, well the challenge goes for you as well, it is time to bring back your best voices. I know the supporters groups have done a great job over the 5 years being the leaders of the home crowd, but I think if we take an honest look at things there is room to improve and get back to the level the support was at back in the first two years. This is by no means meant to be critical of supporters groups as I think they do a great job already and I know they have a genuine passion that they express each match, but it is a call to do their part in bringing back the buzz to the entire ground. Part of that means trying to spread their influence throughout the stadium and including more fans but part of it also involves a need for the club to embrace these groups a whole lot more.
The second part of my wish is that Toronto FC would do its part to bring back the buzz and fix some relationships that their decisions have often put strain on. As I have already noted their is a need for the club to develop a stronger relationship with the supporters groups. These groups may not be the majority of their fans but they are the true heart and soul of the club. As such the Front Office needs to show more willingness to work with them and the CCL game will be a big test of this. If the club wants this to be a really special affair, working with the likes of U-Sector and Red Patch Boys is clearly a must. They are the ones that will be bringing the flags, the large banners, the drums, and probably the loudest voices so making sure they are there in big numbers and that they all bring their friends is a must. The club should be looking to work with them and reward them for their dedication to the club with cheap tickets and even some free promotional tickets.
For the club to bring the buzz back, and then keep it back, they need to do more than just promote the crap out of that game at Rogers. To do it they need to continue to work towards putting a strong product on the field. If the team is actually doing well it will obviously give the fans more to get excited about which will make this wish a whole lot easier. A win against the Galaxy would be a good start, so would the teams first playoff game, but more than that I wish that they continue to play the game in a way we can get excited about.
The last part of the wish is that the club will bring more of an event feel back to the games. This mainly goes for weekend matches during the summer where they can stage a few more things outside of the field and really play up that element. Things like the year end 90th minute event and the TFC pub crawl are a good start but more can still be done to improve the match going experience. On top of that, I would not mind more promotions from the club, be it giving away free stuff at matches a bit more often, or even better discounts on tickets to some special games.
In the end the biggest thing I am wishing for from the club is that they stop treating the fans like a dollar sign so often. Sure they have a nice waiting list for season seats and regardless of prices they still seem to sell as many as they want each year but that is not the point. It is about more than just seeing how much you can get fans to pay to come to a match. It is about saying thank you to your loyal supporters and continuing with pay freezes, it is about saying thank you and giving season seat holders cheap options on tickets to Voyageurs Cup and CCL matches, but mostly it is about showing fans that the club does care about them and not just about getting their hands on our credit cards.
So what I am wishing for is that the club, the supporters groups, and us fans all do our parts to bring back the buzz. I have a feeling I am not the only one who misses the way it felt to be at a Toronto FC match back in season one. So let's get back that feeling!