Believe it or not, but there is a fate worse than losing in sport. It’s losing (or winning) and a general feeling of apathy existing amongst the fanbase. Nothing scares sports executives more than when a fanbase just shrugs their shoulders at the results, unable to muster even the slightest of emotions.
I’m not saying Toronto FC has reached that point yet, or that they will...but boy is the recipe certainly setup that way, isn't it?
Right now, Toronto FC are already a step removed from their loyal fanbase due to the pandemic causing them to relocate home operations to Orlando, Florida. This less than ideal setup removes the proximity to their fanbase, and removes those 18 or 20 odd times a year in which the fans can don their favourite kit, put on their scarf and make plans for a pregame pint as they march into BMO Field amongst the sounds of fans singing and drums pounding. It just is very hard to conjure up the same feelings when you’re watching piped in sounds from a thousand miles away.
Compounding the distance factor, is that right now, this isn't a very exciting soccer team to watch, even on the television, is it? The three star designated players have combined to play a grand total of zero minutes together and in the case of Jozy Altidore, it’s increasingly seeming like he may never play another minute for Toronto FC.
It’s also not a club with a clear and concise identity. They're being setup as a pressing club, but let’s face it after one win in 10 matches, it’s clear that the system and personnel to run that system are not simpatico. It’s a team that has a lot of money vested in veteran players, but because of the byzantine salary cap restrictions and rules, has had to rely on young players to fill in the gaps, who would be better served to season under the tutelage of TFC II coaches right now. ‘Play the kids’ is a much more palatable mantra when the expectations of the season are low to begin with, not when you were a club who just narrowly missed out on the Supporters Shield the season prior.
The other factor working against TFC and it’s connection with the fanbase, is right now, they aren't the only source of soccer for starved eyeballs. The Euro 2020 has setup to be a very exciting tournament with close games and wonderful quality of football being played in the afternoons, while the evenings have brought in the flair and dramatics of South American soccer via the Copa America.
On top of that, you have the start of the Canadian Premier League, who I would venture to say has a significant overlap with Toronto FC, when it comes to hardcore fans. The CPL in its short three years has developed into a slick television product, and while the quality may not match that of the big international tournaments going on right now, it certainly makes up for it by not having the associated misery that each TFC match brings.
Sometimes it’s just more fun to just be neutral observer and a fan of the beautiful game.
Very soon, Toronto FC will return back to BMO Field, and because of the circumstances of their absence and how long it has been, all of us will be clamouring to return back to watch some live soccer games. But in the meanwhile, this club has to find something to do to shake up the apathy that’s starting to set in some corners around the #TFCLive fandom and make sure than when they do make their return to Toronto, we’re not there just because of circumstances, but because we genuinely want to be.