HT Blog >> Ticats Fans: Where's the Future?

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With Hamilton set to host the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a, oh, meaningless game that will only play a key role their playoff fates; I can’t help but wonder how many fans will actually show up to what is the most important game the Tiger-Cats have hosted in five years.

Ivor Wynne’s average attendance has dwindled each year since Bob Young took over as owner in 2004 and the simple theory as to why is the teams ineptness. The Tiger-Cats have averaged under five wins per season since 2004 and with the city hit hard by the recession, the average attendance is 22,275 heading in to week 18. The biggest challenge now for the powers that be is not to retain the current fan base, but attempt to develop a future fan base.

The team has been a tough sell over the last few years but at least now the franchise has an opportunity to snag a home playoff game. A giant step in the right direction but if the team wants to grasp an entire generation, it’ll take a more then one season.

Based on my own inaccurate polling, at around the 27-and-under age range is where the team gets lost. The average sports fan develops their passion in their early teens and with the explosion of the National Football League and plethora of sports options in Southern Ontario it’s awfully tough to make an argument in favour of the Canadian Football League.

There is clearly no issue out West where the league is as strong as ever but without enough support in Ontario, it’s virtually moot and there simply isn’t as much competition for the league in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Unfortunately for Hamilton and the CFL, “a league to call our own? is not enough to direct the herd of sheep to the North. Is home-grown playoff football the cure? We’ll find out soon.


The IMMEDIATE future doesn't look very bright for Ti-Cat ticket sales. With the forecast for Saturday (cloudy with showers 1-3 mm, Hi of 7, SW winds @ 45 KM/HR -- yes 45!) there'll likely be more tickets sold to Ontario watermelon wearers than to casual Cat fans.

"The biggest challenge now for the powers that be is not to retain the current fan base, but attempt to develop a future fan base."

I have to disagree with your logic here. It's been my observations and expierience that it's the older , more seasoned fan base that actually introduces the new fans to the game and gets them hooked. In fact entire families through generations have "trained" their off-spring to be CFL fans, and more specifically, Tiger-Cat fans. The influence of the current fan base in attracting the next crop of fans should never be understated.

Interest in a sport begins at a very young my case, it began when all of us kids actually got muddy and grass-stained playing sand-lot football after school and on weekends........then it progressed to following the Ticats on radio and TV and then actually attending the games. We didn't need any great marketing machine to make us die-hard fans. All we needed was to get outside with a football in our hands and join our parents in following the Ticats from home or at the stadium.

Also, the CFL game day is becoming very expensive now for a family of 4 let's say if you include food and drink prices so I think that's where some of the problem may lie right now......

Out of curiosity, has anyone seen a bunch of kids playing pick-up football in a park or school grounds recently?........I sure haven't.

Since you mention my age bracket in this blog I will respond with some reasons why my friends, relatives, and teammates do not attend Tiger-Cat games. All my guy friends are 29 and under most of them married or in relationships. I play hockey as well with most of the guys on the team and in the league under 30 as well. I can't speak for everyone in this age bracket, but I will say what most of t he guys I hang with say. The biggest reason they do not attend is Ticket pricing. Now some will argue that it is great prices. The guys will argue that You can get good NFL tickets for pretty much the same price especially now with exchange being pretty much at par. Atmosphere at the game isn't what they want ie the tailgating is poor at best and overall gameday experience just isn't happening. The guys who have gone complain concession is overpriced and off poor quality. Location of stadium is another concern, parking is lacking and at the last game we went to 2 of the guys cars were broken into. Also everyone of the guys who attends football games wives/girlfriends do like football, but if t hey are going to a game prefer the party type atmosphere of the NFL. The low priced bus trips to games is also another selling point for them to. Another big complaint from them is the price they pay to sit on a back-less wooden bleacher which causes for cramped seating leg room and often times people occupying a seat and a half. I do have a few friends from the States who have compared the gameday experience to below a high school game there. Also people of this age range want to party in groups etc which is why if the decision to go to a game is there its almost always to a NFL game. Lastly I have a few friends who have not attended games and likely never will because they just d on't like the CFL. Overall I'd say the CFL has done a poor job in marketing period especially to the 25-30 yr old fan. Plus losing seasons high priced tickets this age range theory has been I'd rather go see a Bills game and if they lose at least it was a party. The vast majority of my friends have said they would never pay more then 40 bucks for a top ticket to see the Cat's

Im hoping the weather doesnt affect fans from coming out. I think it`s ridiculous that some rain and wind could prevent some people from not attending a huge game, ( that could possibly see us making the playoffs for the first time in 5 years!)

If Saskatchewan, Calgary, or Winnipeg can have huge numbers with the weather out there, we should be able to do the same.

I will also add the allure of t he NFL pools and gambling keeps 25+ age more focused on the NFL. The NFL just has more ability for social gatherings and thats something the CFL will never be able to fix. I'd say thats likely the biggest reason alone this age range doesn't even consider CFL. The NFL is more of a social party thing. People come over to watch games bbq, drink, make teams/picks, and bet.

I would think this current H1N1 flu scare is going to start affecting attendance at sporting events North America wide very shortly. Except for a possible home semi-final, the Ticats can be thankful that other than this Saturday, all their home games have already been played.

With H1N1 that is a possibility. They say the work place will also be hugely affected. Lots of employees missing work.

If you look at the Canadians going to Bills games or college games in the States, you aren't talking families either but guys in their late teens, and 20's-30's looking to get out of town for a day or few days with "the boys" to have a good time, like going fishing.

I really think even if Hamilton had an NFL team, and ticket prices would surely be higher, you still wouldn't get the families of 4 type of thing, too costly in today's world with unemployment and that. The NFL is seeing more blackouts this year than ever I was reading, sellouts not happening like in past years, MLB attendance was down as well.

I think the entire future of pro sports is potentially problematic. Smaller pro leagues like the CFL and MLS should be more ok I think because there is more of a handle on the costs but even then, I just don't know, I'm not optimistic about a lot of pro sports teams in the future, at least not for the family of 4 sort of thing going.

Good post, Earl. I agree.

Also, in my own little surveying of family and neighbours, football seems to be mighty far down the radar for a lot of kids. The majority that I talk to say that the sport sucks because its too slow. Basically, meaning that they're used to the steadier flow of hockey and have hard time relating to the strategies that football brings.

And, drinking beer and being rowdy isn't really in their immediate future.

I think football takes a bit more seasoning for a lot of kids. Since its not something a whole lot of them will play until highschool, they don't have the connection to it...right away anyway.

Thus, I think the key to reaching kids in the area might be through hockey. Sounds silly, but to find the affluent sport-hungry households in our communities, I think you have to head down to the local rink. Sponsor tournaments, give away merch, player-of-the-game awards, tickets, etc. Even initiatives to help kids play hockey is a pretty fertile PR ground these days.

I don't think its 'bowing to the hockey folks' either -- I just think its not a bad 'fish where the fish are' marketing strategy.

That the thing right now the market should be heavily geared towards the 25-35 yr old male. As well as Middle aged men. Families is a horrible market now its hard to sell entertainment to a family when just breaking even is becoming difficult. The people with money to spend are single males with a girlfriend or a wife, but no kids. Like I said the NFL has really swipped up that market with reasonable ticket prices. The atmosphere. I wouldn't say its geared just to boys weekends. Its geared to group party event. My wife has been to both Cat's and Bills games with me and has said if she is going to a game and is spending 60-80 bucks a ticket she prefers Bills because of the tailgating and social event it is.

Good reads guys. Yes slo, hockey is a much easier sport to grasp no question and has more kids playing it. I'm the perfect example, played hockey from 5 years old onwards and didn't get into playing football until high school although there was a kids league in London and church league back then. In high school I had to play because I was a fast runner and my brother played, it was the "in" thing to do get on the football team in high school.

ADAWG, for the reasons your wife likes the Bills, my wife doesn't want that, albeit she is 47 and didn't grow-up with a party sporting culture, crowds arent' her thing but she likes the TiCats because the crowds aren't big and it's not a party like atmosphere with lots of young boozers in our section, more reserved but we high five each other when the Cats make a good play. Everybody is different. I wouldn't dare bring her to a Bills game, I've been there before and drinking in a parking lot and going into the stadium and sitting with guys who have been drinking is not her thing, that's for sure. For us it's a night out or day out of the house without having to travel far or worry about drunks. Plus I've educated her on the Canadian aspect of the CFL and spending your money in Canada, and on guys not making millions with huge egos and heads like they are some sort of god. She hates that about pro sports players, thinks they are overpaid for what they do but understands the CFL guys are more regular guys.

My colleague Mike Hogan scoffed when I told him that weather has affected the attendance in Hamilton.

"Football is football" he says

It's interesting because I think the older fan base is more understanding and appreciative of "football weather", which again comes right back to the younger fans that the franchise is losing. Try getting a 21-year old to Ivor Wynne on a Friday night in 5 degree weather. Just doesn't work because the culture is missing

Agree, plenty of interest in Ham. and S. Ontario.
The TV numbers prove that.
But when game day rolls around they stay home.
There's the rub.

I'm not saying that Bills games are for everyone just kind of chiming in why my generation of fans don't attend games. If the Cat's could tap into even 1/3 of the 25-35 crowd the stadium would be full almost every game. As a younger fan without kids and most of our friends when we do something on a Sunday/Weekend we like to make an entire day of it. The kind of mentality is do it now while you can before kids come into the picture. Do the partying be able to take off for an entire day to do so. When as a group we go to a Bills game we leave the house in Burlington around 6:30am and thats when the party begins. We do breakfast at the tailgate and lunch and after game party. Usually 15-20 of us attend a game 3-4 times a year. Generally speaking I attended 4 Ti-cat games a year with 3-4 people I've tried to get more but its not something others want or like.

Yup, everyone is different and at different ages and looking for the type of entertainment package that suits them, there is no one size fits all that's for sure. The good thing about living here in southern Ontario we have so many choices for entertainment. The bad thing is that it spreads out the entertainment as well and people have only so much money or time.

ADAWG there is only one reason why people don't go to the games and that is because this is a lousy sports town starting right from the young all the way to the old. I have heard all the excuses, I have to take Johnny to violin lessons, I have to play hockey there isn't any tailgating. All these sold called nfl fans go to one or two games a year at most the rest just lay around and watch the nfl on tv with a bag of chip and a beer and they won't leave that lazy boy even if the house was on fire.Went to montreal to see a game lots of young people there and they don't have tailgating, went to see Michigan State and Notre Dame and they didn't have any backs on the seats. If your a Tiger Cat fan you will go and support the team and you don't need all the BS. Hamilton On. ranked 325th out of 399 cities for best sports town in North America. Enjoy your watered down American beer and long waits at the bridge at your next Bills game :thdn:

Very good points but again, a child can be brought up as a football/Ticat fan but ultimately it's the child's friends and class mates that will have the biggest impact on their interests.

The franchise needs to do something to salvage a lost fan base in my opinion. Winning helps and of course, new stadium anyone?

On that note, I've made some additions to my blog:

[i]This brings me the talks of a new stadium in TigerTown. Die hard fans will tell you that Ivor Wynne is rich in tradition and culture but what does that mean to a young fan? Little Johnny (why did Johnny get to become the official generic kid name?) would be much more inclined to spend his Friday nights or Saturday afternoons hanging out with his friends and playing Playstation 3 then watch his father struggle to find parking, sift through the crowded entrance and then sit on a ratty park bench in five-degree weather. Now of course I’m going to the extreme but the fact is, new stadiums with physical appeal and convenience is what helps attract fans; especially the younger fans. The veteran fan base can tout Ben Zambiasi’s six all-star seasons and Angelo Mosca’s record nine Grey Cup games but ultimately it falls on deaf ears because there just isn’t the same football culture in Hamilton.

Two years ago I went to Monster Park aka Candlestick Park aka San Francisco Stadium at Candlestick Point aka 3Com Park at Candlestick Point to watch the 49ers and Bengals play in a Saturday nighter. I’ve grown up as a Niners fan thanks to Joe Montana Football for Sega Genesis and that was my first football experience in San Fransico. Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Roger Craig…the list of iconic names that set foot in that stadium is endless and that really hit me…until the ball was kicked off. It’s a very old, poorly located stadium that will soon be replaced. I guess the historically intrigue can only last so long before reality sets in and it’s time to enjoy a football game. The historians and die hards can go on and on about how it’s disrespectful to overlook what’s been accomplished in a stadium but in the end, it’s an accurate representation of the fan base coming up behind me, behind them, and so on.

The CFL is a gate driven league and steps need to, and are being made to ensure that the gate numbers strengthen in The Hammer now, next season and 20 years from now because unfortunately for Hamilton, “a league to call our own? and “a stadium full of history? is not enough to direct the herd of sheep to the North. Is home-grown playoff football the cure? How about a new stadium? We’ll find out soon.[/i]

Heres a topic that has always been of great interest to me.
I ve always believed that the TiCats have been the longest running show in Hamilton and truth is their only competion is TV.
I cant draw comparisons to the Bills, as they are a poorer NFL market that does not charge their leagues going rate for tickets. Bills in Toronto is a fairer comparison.
I do understand the party tailgate sceen but that to ends with most at a certain age.

So what is it that keeps the TiCats at the just about sucessful point they seem to be stuck in?

My thoughts, first off there is no local comparison, no other show that has run since 1950. No other sports teams in this city that gives proof to me that we are or we are not a sports town. Frankly nothing has suceeded in Hamilton and some would even say thats true of the Cats. I see it differently, I see the Cats as a major sucess, that with all the pitfalls and downfalls that have hampered this team over 50 plus years, their still here.
The future is tough, make no mistake, but its brighter now then it has been in years, a new staduim is a possibility and a better team as rebuilding continues.
I know there are many who hate the thoughts of replacing IWS but, its time its really way past time. A new stadium lays the foundation of anew and hope and DIFFERENT. At that point, kick off 20?? at the New _________ stadium in a new location this team be able to market on a level playing field. For the people I know that do not go now, no amount of marketing will convince them to buy a ticket for any event held at IWS.
So much of whats caused this in Hamilton is a lack of comunnity pride, the lack of a suitable venue to play the games, a lack of the ideal location and the ease of sitting on ones butt in front of a TV.

But all in all, isnt what we have here dispite it all a damn sucessful organization?

I don't think there should be any blaming, people have the right to spend their money and time as they wish. It's that simple really, we all make choices and what makes sense at age x might not makes sense at age xxx, or it might still, whatever.

Rogers has found out that selling the Bills in Toronto is tough as well when the Bills are so close in Buffalo with what many call the real tailgating NFL atmosphere. In some ways I'm surprised, pleasantely surprised though, that the TiCats and Argos are still in existence with how the NFL has really dominated the airwaves since I was a kid and with the Bills moving from old War Memorial to Orchard Park and able to market them with the tailgating atmosphere, and the Wolverines in Ann Arbor doing the same.