Attendance in New England: What’s Wrong with the Revs?

revsIt seemed like the perfect confluence of events: A beautiful night, a team on a winning streak, a Saturday night in September (the Revs traditionally pull big fall crowds) and a fireworks spectacular at the end of the game. However, instead of a big raucous crowd, less than 9,500 were in attendance as the Revs fell to Kansas City in a fairly exciting game. This was the second straight Revs game under 10k, and while the previous game fell victim to the remnants of Tropical Storm Daniel, these are disappointing numbers for a proud franchise.

The poorly attended match continued a downward trend for the Krafts’ soccer franchise. For the season, New England is averaging less than 12,000 The Revs averaged 14,300 in 2008 and 16,700 in 2007. While attendance has fallen, the team has been a consistently successful performer on the field. The Revs have been to multiple finals, won the SuperLiga, won the US Open Cup and have been a perennial playoff participant.

So what has gone wrong? Some fans believe that the early years of MLS (where the Revs were fairly well supported), were so dismal in New England, that fans stopped turning out. Others believe that the Revs neglected the “hard core” supporters in lieu of promoting family attendance and as a result, the young crowd stopped coming. Others believe that the cavernous atmosphere of Gillette stadium combine with turf fields and football lines have conspired to drive fans away.  Moreover, there has long been a feeling among Revs’ fans that the team is barely a blip on the Kraft family radar, and that there is an unwillingness to bring in players or spend on the team.  Over the last few years, the Revs have lost quality players like Dempsey, Noonan, Dorman and Parkhurst without finding ready replacements.

To the Revs’ credit, they are making an effort to bring “hard core” fans back to the stadium.  Check out our interview with Revs’ COO Brian Bilello for more on their efforts to attract fans.   But is it enough?   The Boston area seems to be a great place for a professional team.  Youth soccer is popular in the area, there are strong ethnic communities and a history of turning out for big soccer events.  A huge crowd turned out in 2002 for the Galaxy/Revs final in Foxboro in full throat for the Revs
(and were disappointed by the result).  That game occurred at a time when the region was desperate for a champion and ready to embrace the Revs and the sport of soccer. The Revs lost, and slowly, the fans stopped coming.

The Revs need to take steps to right the ship or risk further alienating their fans.  In our view, the team needs to take a hard look at using its DP in 2010 and bringing in a player or two with international recognition to ignite the soccer base in the Boston area.  With a healthy Twellman and Joseph,  the steady Matt Reis, an improving young defense and a big name “number 10”, the Revs can generate the press and excitement to re-energize their potential base.  Moving towards a stadium will also help; Gillette can really suck the life out of soccer game.

So what should the Revs do?  Will the construction of a stadium bring the fans?  Does the team need to sign a big player or two?  What can the Revs do to bring them back to Gillette?