In a bid to prevent season ticket-holders from abandoning ship, Toronto FC is rolling back prices to 2007 inaugural season levels.
“We’ve let them (the fans) down in the quality of the product,” said Tom Anselmi, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “Especially the last few years obviously.”
Toronto is currently last in the league with a 5-20-7 record. That’s worse than its 2007 expansion season record of 6-17-7.
“We recognize that this is a real concern,” Anselmi said. “If I’m a TFC fan, I’m upset, I get that.
“This is really trying to recognize their support, their loyalty. They’ve done their job and we haven’t done ours. And we’ve got to get it right.”
Anselmi said 90 per cent of the season ticket holders will get a 20 per cent rollback and 40 per cent will see a 45 per cent reduction.
For stadium seating at BMO Field, the top season ticket price will drop to $1,007 in 2013 from $1,292 this year. The lowest price for a season ticket will be $190, compared to $361 in 2012.
The top season ticket price for a premium seat — those who sit on the field behind the advertising hoardings — drops to $2,850 from $3,515.
Single-seat prices will remain unchanged for the third year.
TFC ticket prices remain near the top of MLS teams, the MLSE president acknowledged. Season ticket prices have risen three times in six years.
“We had this phenomenon that happened in ‘07 that created this enormous demand,” Anselmi said. “And the product just hasn’t lived up to the pricing especially in the last few years.”
The rollback applies to all past and present season ticket-holders who buy 2013 tickets. New season ticket purchasers will pay slightly more than 2007 prices.
Anselmi declined to detail the cost of reducing prices other than to say it’s “pretty healthy.”
MLSE has reduced Toronto Raptor ticket prices in the past but those rollbacks were more limited.
The timing of the announcement comes two days before the team’s final home game of the season against Montreal, an expansion team that has almost twice as many points as Toronto.
There are 17 home games in the season and thanks to an increasingly irate fan base, there have been lots of empty seats recently.
The last home game, a 1-0 loss to D.C. United, drew an announced crowd of 15,281. Anselmi acknowledged that ticket usage has dropped recently.
Toronto stands 10th in the league in attendance this season, averaging 18,280.
Toronto currently has 15,800 season ticket holders, compared to 13,000 for Vancouver,
The Whitecaps offers a 13 per cent discount for anyone who bought season tickets in a window between Sept. 22 and Oct. 3.
The Caps say their average season ticket price has gone down from $676.12 to $675.15.
The Impact had 8,000 season ticket-holders in their inaugural season and hope to reach 10,000 in 2013. The expansion team also promised ticket-holders there would be no increase if they renewed by Friday.
TFC’s renewal rate last year was 85 per cent, down a point. The waiting list for season tickets has dropped.
The Toronto price drop may address pocket book issues but not the product on the field in a year Anselmi called both tough and bizarre.
“Winning is our goal,” says Thursday’s notice to season ticket holders.
It just hasn’t happened very often.
In six MLS seasons, Toronto has yet to make the playoffs and sports a 45-87-47 career league record. This season started with an MLS record nine-game losing streak.
The team is on its seventh manager with Paul Mariner succeeding Aron Winter in June.
Anselmi said he will supervise a “complete review” of the team’s performance on the field and then take it to the MLSE board.
“We’ve got to look at it and decide whether we’ve got the right set of technical skills, the right resources and the right leadership,” he said.
“We haven’t got it right,” he added. “We’ve got to get it right.”
An announcement on Mariner’s future would be made after the review, Anselmi said.