Promoting MLS Is Not Going To Be Easy

Well that’s the hockey playoffs here and the city has gone it’s usual Canucks crazy way, leaving very little to no room for the Whitecaps and Southsiders to try and grab sports fans attentions.

I’ve said it before in the blog that, yes, I know it’s a hockey mad city. I think most of us know it didn’t always used to be this way as well, but changing that just now is not likely to happen any time soon, so best we just learn to co-exist with that fact and just look at how best to get our foothold into the sporting public’s attention here for MLS coming.

In amongst all of the happiness that the new season had begun and the Caps had got off to a winning start, was the surprising fact that the attendance at Saturday’s season opener against Minnesota was surprisingly low. Only 4,934 fans turned up for the first game of the season on a beautiful and sunny April Sunday afternoon with no other major sporting distractions in the city.

I find that both alarming and quite frankly shocking. The Caps already have more season ticket deposits for next season than those who could be bothered to turn up last weekend.

The Whitecaps have done a great job marketing themselves in recent seasons and this year’s campaign is going to be a cracker. It’s hard to see what more they can do really.

Our obvious comparison to aim for is what’s happened in Seattle. They’ve embraced the MLS. It’s going to be harder here on a number of counts.

First of all, as an avid lifelong football fan myself, I find the MLS pretty boring most of the time. This will change next season when I actually have an interest in how other teams are performing, as it will affect our standing.

Did anyone see last night’s Toronto-Philadelphia match up? Talk about a cure for insomnia, especially the first half, yet a record crowd of 21,978 packed in to BMO Field to see TFC win 2-1.

At the moment Toronto are “Canada’s team” in MLS terms. We could argue that they’re the team we need to excite football lovers about MLS action across the country and especially those in Vancouver that prefer to watch the game on television just now. That they’re partially responsible in helping excite Vancouver for the MLS. If any of that is true, then we’re pretty fucked!

TFC are a shambles this season so far. The only excitement being generated is watching to see how are they going to manage to fuck things up this week. Last night they got out of jail thanks to bad goalkeeping, poor Philly discipline (a developing trend already this season) and a penalty with nine minutes to go saving their blushes after allowing their ten men opposition to get back into the game.

If I was in two minds about whether to buy a MLS season ticket next year, they’d not be selling the idea to me.

Thankfully we have the atmosphere and crowds generated by both Toronto and Seattle to possibly help us out. Of course, it would be easier to do this if people could actually see these things more regularly.

Last night’s game was on Gol TV. Not only does that channel cost most people extra money on their package, for me at least, the picture quality of the channel isn’t the best (that may just be a Telus thing).

Finding regular MLS action on our screens that doesn’t involve TFC is extremely difficult. I’d love us to be able to easily watch every Sounders game live up here. To let people know what we can expect and achieve come 2011. To set up some electrifying derbies.

I’d like to watch other teams too. I’m realistic enough to know that the standard networks aren’t going to be airing this in primetime viewing but the MLS should be making sure that their product is being aired somehow to as many people as possible across the continent, on whatever channel(s) that might be.

Part of the reason I don’t care about the MLS is that I can’t get to watch very much of it unless I do so online. That’s the kind of thing that can not only kill the Whitecaps ambitions but also the League itself.

It might not be pretty to watch at times, but a lot of Leagues are like that. A lot of sport can be like that. At least give us the chance to make our minds up about it.

You’ll only kill interest by causing disinterest.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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