FRI, 2:30PM ET
MET2
PSG3
FRI, 2:30PM ET
ATH3
ESP1
SAT, 10AM ET
WOL
FOR
SAT, 10AM ET
CHE
WBA
SAT, 10AM ET
MCFC
SWA
SAT, 12:30PM ET
ARS
MUFC

MLS And Weekdays – Feast or Famine?

feast or famine MLS And Weekdays   Feast or Famine?

It was a welcome announcement that MLS will not schedule matches during the group phase, semifinals and finals of the 2010 World Cup. That means the league will not play from Friday, June 11 through Friday, June 25. The WC round of 16 will be played from Saturday June 26 through Tuesday June 29. Wednesday and Thursday, June 30-July 1 are off days. The quarterfinals will be on Friday July 2 and Saturday July 3. Here MLS gets a break as July 4(and 5) are rest days, the Fourth traditionally being a big attendance day. The tourney closes with the semis on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 6th and 7th, a couple of rest days and the consolation game(3rd/4th) on Saturday the 10th and the final on Sunday the 11th.

In the past, one of the reasons given not to respect the FIFA calendar was the complaint that the reduced revenue of weekday matches would not be acceptable while the league was trying to reach a stable financial position.


Jack Bell covered the Supporters’ Summit last year. Here is an excerpt in which Don Garber says:

“It would cost us up to $5 million to take off all the FIFA dates, which increase in number in 2009.”

==============

So I banged together a few numbers from 2008 to see what it told me. 42 games were played Mon-Fri as follows:

2008 Weekday Games
 Monday – 1 
 Tuesday – 0 
 Wednesday – 9 
 Thursday – 27(ESPN Thursday nights) 
 Friday – 5, 3 of which were played on July 4 


Here you can see the average attendance for weekends(Sat and Sun) and weekdays and the average differences. The average difference is then multiplied times the number of weekday games.

 2008  Weekends Weekdays  Notes
    Avg     GP     Avg     GP    Avg +/-  GP times Avg +/-  
 Chicago  17,211   12   16,328   3   -883   -2,649   
 Chivas USA  13,506   13   25,572   2   12,066   24,132   Blanco/Beckham
 Colorado  13,438   13   15,095   2   1,657   3,314   4-Jul
 Columbus  14,795   13   13,499   2   -1,296   -2,592   
 Dallas  16,143   10   8,345   5   -7,797   -38,985   4-Jul
 DC United  21,297   11   15,817   4   -5,480   -21,920   
 Houston  18,115   11   13,706   4   -4,409   -17,636   
 Kansas City  11,032   13   8,435   2   -2,598   -5,196   
 Los Angeles  25,648   11   27,000   4   1,352   5,408   4-Jul
 New England  16,834   10   19,074   5   2,240   11,200   one int’l friendly
 NY Red Bull  16,386   14   9,521   1   -6,865   -6,865   
 Real Salt Lake  16,688   10   15,163   5   -1,525   -7,625   
 San Jose  13,975   14   10,046   1   -3,929   -3,929   
 Toronto FC  20,154   13   19,894   2   -261   -522   
               per game
     168     42     -63,865   -1,521 


Using approximate game day revenue numbers as gathered over the years when such things leak out, we are able to come up with a very rough approximation of per capita game day spending. The numbers I am using are as follows: Tickets: $18, Food: $7, Merchandise: $5. Since every venue does not charge for parking, I left that out. So I’m just calling it $30 per head and using that with published attendance numbers. Applying these we get a game day loss for the 42 weekday games of $1,915,950.

2009 Weekday Games
 Monday – 0 
 Tuesday – 0 
 Wednesday – 14 (ESPN 3)
 Thursday – 8 (ESPN 6, FSC 1)
 Friday – 8 (ESPN 3)


(There are two more weekday games this season.)

 2009  Weekends Weekdays  Notes
    Avg     GP     Avg     GP    Avg +/-  GP times Avg +/-  
 Chicago  14,129   12   16,623   2   2,494   4,988   Beckham
 Chivas USA  15,112   11   20,379   1   5,267   5,267   Blanco
 Colorado  12,934   13   8,409   2   -4,526   -9,052   
 Columbus  14,701   13   8,793   1   -5,908   -5,908   
 Dallas  9,410   12   29,227   2   19,817   39,635   
 DC United  17,395   11   11,233   3   -6,162   -18,486   
 Houston  16,287   13   14,516   1   -1,771   -1,771   
 Kansas City  10,075   11   9,731   2   -344   -687   
 Los Angeles  19,812   13   21,679   1   1,867   1,867   no Blanco
 New England  13,432   13   0   0   0   0   
 NY Red Bull  11,254   11   14,086   3   2,832   8,497   Beckham
 Salt Lake  16,462   8   15,802   5   -661   -3,303   
 San Jose  14,782   13   9,774   2   -5,008   -10,016   
 Seattle  30,547   11   31,444   3   897   2,692   
 Toronto  20,309   11   20,409   2   100   200   
               per game
   15,688   176   16,767   30     13,922   464 


2008: Let’s look at the three teams that had 5 weekday games, a full third of their home schedules, FC Dallas, New England and Real Salt Lake. RSL fared better than Dallas, but both suffered from reduced averages, while New England paired up one of its weekday games with an international friendly featuring Brasil v Venezuela. That game drew over 54,000 which was enough to put them in the positive column for their weekday games.

If you sum the extended numbers you come up with a deficit of 63,866 over the 42 weekday games. That would be part of MLS’s argument. Some teams would not tolerate the loss in revenue. But it’s clear that if create a marketable item, either with a big draw player, or an intriguing event to pair with an MLS match, the attendance deficit argument looks to be very flimsy. In fact, the league cut down the weekday matches by 10(by season’s end) in 2009, despite the heavy schedule of CONCACAF and FIFA events.

2009: What can we say about these numbers? The first one that jumps out is the Dallas number. Time after time we see that scheduling international friendlies with MLS games boosts attendance regardless of the day of week. The other is Chivas USA’s massive increase in the average when Blanco and Beckham were the opponents. Just goes to show that if you bring ‘the goods’, people will come out on a weekday.

Here’s a compilation of MLS attendance by day as of play ending Oct 8, 2009.

MLS Attendance by Day
Day GP Total Avg
 MON  7   135,349    19,336  
 TUE  21   418,310    19,920  
 WED  339   4,196,526    12,379  
 THU  132   1,957,477    14,829  
 FRI  91   1,449,785    15,932  
 SAT  1526   24,017,714    15,739  
 SUN  373   6,091,162    16,330  





Now before any nit pickers get their rocks off with a rant, let me say this is a very rough picture of the effects of weekday v weekend game days. But it does serve as a sort of baseline to reference when I hear pronouncements such as ‘The Don’ made about the problems of more weekday matches. Hell, we even see that with 2 weekday matches to go in 2009, the average attendance is up over weekend matches.

Whether it be scheduling international friendlies, club friendlies, concerts or other variety events, it seems very clear to me that creative marketing departments will be the determining factor for teams making the best of more weekday matches, in particular during the summer months when schools are out of session. And if the draw is strong enough, i.e.; Mexico playing in Dallas, even a school night can be overcome.

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