SBD/February 4, 2014/Franchises

MLSE's Tanenbaum: Toronto FC Signings Show Commitment To Winning Over Profit

Tanenbaum says the signings seek to win fans back after a years-long attendance drop
MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum hopes MLS Toronto FC's $220M in winter signings sends a "strong message to fans that winning trumps short-term profit," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. Tanenbaum is "sharply aware of ... the perception among Toronto sports fans that MLSE can live with losing teams as long as the clubs generate revenue." Tanenbaum said, "Our ownership group are unbelievably committed to winning at all levels, (including) winning our fans back and winning in our community. Our fans truly deserve world-class teams." The club this offseason has acquired F Gilberto, F Jermain Defoe and MF Michael Bradley, and the moves for Tanenbaum are "about rebuilding brands -- both the soccer club's and the company's." Experts said that "splurging" on the players will help TFC meet "on-field and financial goals." Campbell notes TFC during its first season in '07 "averaged 20,130 spectators for home games, a figure that trailed only two MLS teams, each with significantly larger stadiums than 20,000-seat BMO Field." But after "several lacklustre seasons, TFC slipped to 10th place in overall attendance, averaging 18,131 in a stadium that had been expanded to seat 25,000." An "infusion of high-profile talent and the prospect of making the playoffs could quickly boost sales of TFC merchandise and tickets" (TORONTO STAR, 2/4).

DRAWING THE LINE: In Toronto, Kurtis Larson reports TFC "will release a final block of 500 season tickets" today before "capping its season-ticket base at 17,000. The club has "enjoyed a league-leading renewal rate of 95% among existing season-seat holders on top of selling an additional 2,700 new seats" ahead of the '14 season. Maybe "more impressive is the fact the club has done this in a fraction of the time fellow MLS clubs have." MLS teams "typically open up ticket renewals in October," but TFC "elected to hold off until after fans witnessed its off-season transformation" (TORONTO SUN, 2/4).
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