Toronto FC Does the Unthinkable: It Listens to Fans

Toronto FC fans hold up banners at the end of their team's MLS soccer match against Columbus Crew in Toronto October 16, 2010.  REUTERS/Fred Thornhill (CANADA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)

Have you ever questioned rooting for a team?  It doesn’t even have to be a soccer team – maybe you watch pro football or baseball, and your hometown/local team is just bad.  Because you love the sport and the team, you support it through think and thin and you buy season tickets even though that money could go towards something you need more.  You shake your head when management does something blatantly dumb, and you gripe about the players lacking pride in the game.  While you are doing this the team continues to rise prices, even though there is no improvement on the field.  Eventually, you begin to question your fanaticism, usually after years of losing or mismanagement.  You think deep in the recesses of your mind “should I really dedicate my time and money to this team?”  You just want to lash out and make management feel your pain, understand your angst and do something, anything to make it better.

And every once in a while, management listens and gives in.

Toronto FC’s contribution to MLS has been less than spectacular.  In its four seasons of existence, it has never finished in the top ten in MLS, much less qualified for the playoffs and has only found success in the Canadian Championships.  Despite this terrible start for the franchise, they have averaged over 20,000 every match, and the Toronto experiment has inspired MLS to place an additional two, maybe three teams in Canada over the next five years.  And as owners of teams usually do in response to changing times, the ownership group for Toronto FC has raised its ticket prices every year.  The problem is how much they have raised ticket prices; the team announced earlier this month that they were increasing ticket prices 34%, which after comparability studies were done, makes a 2011 Toronto FC ticket more expensive than a Manchester United ticket!

Fans understandably are outraged.  After a 1-0 loss at home to woeful DC United, the Red Patch Boys borrowed Twisted Sister’s greatest hit and announced that they weren’t going to take it anymore.  And the club listened.  This weekend ownership announced they were freezing season ticket prices after the 2011 season and giving all season ticket renewers a free ticket to the 2011 home opener.  The club even went so far as to admit liability in an email to supporters: “Toronto FC fans are unique — you love your club, you feel a part of the club, but your club has let you down on and off the pitch.”

As a fan of multiple teams who have failed to qualify for the playoffs in recent memory and have consistently been losers on the pitch/field/court, I applaud the Toronto FC management.  It takes guts and a good business sense to admit you messed up big time, and it is better they did it now before irreparable harm was done to the fanbase.  But at the same time, they should be ashamed and this is a victory for all fans of all clubs who have been through incompetence, aggravation, and constant losing.  So to fans of teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Raiders, and LA Clippers, stand up and cheer for the Red Patch Boys and hope that this trend of management mea culpa spreads.

Do you think Toronto FC has done enough to answer fan complaints, or should it do more?  Let us know in the comments section or via Twitter @roberthayjr

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