After seven of fifteen home matches, the Red Bulls have drawn an average of 11,170 fans per game. A close examination of those matches, and of the remaining schedule, leaves lots of room for optimism that New York could see a major lift at the gate before the end of the year.
What's happened so far
Call it the national TV curse. New York has played three of its home matches this season on Telefutura or ESPN2 in time slots that haven't proven super fan-friendly:
-SUN APR 15 @ 3p vs. FCD (played in a monsoon): 8,865
-SUN MAY 13 @ 3p vs. COL: 7,805
-THU MAY 24 @ 7p vs. CHI: 9,357
The Red Bulls' four other home matches were held in the traditional Saturday night, 7:30 slot:
-SAT APR 21 vs HOU: 12,481
-SAT MAY 19 vs. CMB: 10,321
-SAT JUN 16 vs. KCW: 15,546
-SAT JUL 14 vs. NER: 13,819
So New York is drawing 50% higher on Saturday nights than on other nights. Nice.
What's to come
Luckily, The Red Bulls' last five home matches all fall on Saturday nights at 7:30p:
-SAT AUG 18 vs. LAG
-SAT SEP 1 vs. CHI
-SAT SEP 22 vs. NER
-SAT SEP 29 vs. RSL
-SAT OCT 13 vs. KCW
One of those matches (you guess which) may entice as many as 60,000 fans to Giants Stadium.
Here are the others:
-SUN JUL 22 @3p vs. DCU
-THU JUL 26 @ 7p vs. CHV
-SUN AUG 11 @ 5p vs. TFC
Given that Sunday is DC's only visit this season, the 26th may bring Chivas fans, and 8/11 will be New York's first look at Toronto, I'm going to assume that attendance for these matches may bring a higher non-Saturday crowd. Also to be considered is the multi-game packs that the FO built into Beckham packages.
Assuming Goldenballs' appearance attracts 50k (they're at 40K today), the Saturday nights pull the average number to date, and the three others bring in 10K each, the remaining eight matches would generate an average audience of 16,521. That'd make the full-year attendance 14,024, only a 3.7% attendance drop from 2006.
If 60K show up for Beckham, the full-year number jumps to 14,691, a 0.8% increase over last year. If 60K show for Becks and 15K come for the DC game on Sunday, the number jumps to 15,024.
My point is that the sky is not falling. Now should this team be pulling at least 20K per game in this huge and extremely savvy soccer market?
However, consider the lack of Red Bull marketing spend. Consider the lack of local market sponsorships driving awareness. Consider 11 years of mostly crappy soccer. Consider that the NY print, television, and radio outlets all but deny the team's existence.
The Beckham wave will lift all boats, and may have a positive effect even after HRH heads back West. Make no mistake, attendance should be higher. There is, however, room for optimism.
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