Home MLS Toronto FC The anger of TFC supporters might just be music to Kevin Payne’s ears

The anger of TFC supporters might just be music to Kevin Payne’s ears

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You have to feel a bit for Manny Aparicio. The 17-year-old homegrown product was promoted to Toronto FC’s senior roster Thursday.

But, unfortunately, the news of progress in a local teenager’s career was dwarfed by the bitterness from the club’s hardcore support over comments made Wednesday night by TFC President and General Manager Kevin Payne. (Before we go further, congrats to the kid, who was the Academy’s MVP at the Dallas Cup and was just called up to the U-18 team, as the foundations are laid for Canada’s next U-20 side).

During halftime of a friendly between the Reds and AS Roma, Payne was interviewed by TSN’s Jason deVos. The former national-team defender asked Payne about the future of friendlies like the Roma match, considering that many of the club’s hardcore supporter vehemently oppose what they perceive as exercises that take away from the regular season.

Payne didn’t just say that the team would continue to play the Euro giants — that alone would have been fair comment. What has got supporters up in arms is that he told those supporters to “get used to it.”

For supporters who have spent the better part of seven years getting used it, all right; getting used to losing, losing, losing some more, promises of saviour players who never materialize, losing, a coaching carousel that spins faster than a propeller, Academy players jumping ship and the slow crawl of TFC from MLS darlings to MLS pariahs. So Payne’s words created a Twitter firestorm — though, it must be said, Twitter firestorms are so often overstated. It’s easy to be indignant by retweet.

This should be a glorious time for TFC; after all, the club is on a two-game winning streak, which is rarified air for this club. Two-game win streaks come along, at best, once a year, like Christmas.

But Payne’s words have certainly ramped up the tension.

But there’s an irony here, one that proves Payne may have a point about the friendlies having for his club. And that’s the fact that so many supporters who swore they’d show nothing but indifference to the Roma game were paying attention to the broadcast and/or the news that came out of that friendly. As much as they tried to unplug, they couldn’t. Sure, you can argue that you didn’t go to the game, you only watched it on TV. Still, the match or the events around the match grabbed your attention; they made you mad.

And supporters being angry is better for a club than supporters being indifferent. What’s scary for a club is when you put the TFC jersey away for good, and find out that you took the kids to Centre Island or the Ontario Science Centre on a Saturday afternoon and didn’t even think about the MLS match you’re missing, let alone checking the score on your phone. Anger shows passion. It shows that you care. It shows that, no matter what the club throws at you, there’s still a good chance that you’ll be a paying customer.

And, if you want the Euro friendlies to stop, you have take your indifference seriously. You can’t get mad about what happens in the game. You have to take the pledge not to care. Don’t check the phone. Don’t watch the game. That’s what brings change. Fan protests don’t work, because it shows the bosses that the people paying the freight are still emotionally invested — even though the revenues generated from supporters are often overstated and the money from casual fans is often understated. Or, put it this way; supporters spend money on season tickets and group sales, which is an important foundation for the club. Casual fans are the ones who stock up on merch and keep the vendors busy; they’re the game-day spenders. For a club like TFC, which needs multiple revenue streams, supporters fill a base need — the ticket base. They are the ones who create buzz that attract the casual fans. But casual fans come in and spend like crazy.

Supporters don’t buy new kits every week (nor should they). But the few thousand people who come down to BMO Field here and there? They’re hungry for souvenirs, their per caps are awesome. And, when TFC faces a team like Roma, there are thousands of those sort of target customers in the stadium. And remember, those casual fans are replaced by new casual fans the next week.

(Per caps, by the way, is how a team measures how much a fan spends on average after he or she enters the stadium. When I used to work for the Edmonton Oilers, I’d get reports on my per cap averages based on the sales of the team’s official magazine, of which I was in charge. A casual fan could spend $100 on merch and food, while the 10 supporters might not equal that; they drink at pubs before the game and know to stock up on food before they enter the stadium)

As long as TFC supporters are angry, Payne and co. understand that they can use friendlies to target those money-dropping casual fans, without pushing the supporters who buy the season tickets into boredom mode. So the only way to stop a per-cap heavy friendlies like Roma from happening is by threatening the ticket base with indifference. And that isn’t happening.

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4 Comments

  1. Seathanaich

    August 9, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Those Toronto FC fans that are bent about this need to get over themselves. Friendlies will continue, if you don’t want to watch them, don’t. Next.

  2. cwell

    August 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    As Al Davis said: “just win, baby.” If TFC starts to win on a regular basis and even better, looks good doing so, this comment (get used to it) will soon be forgotten.

    I like KP because he’s fiesty, just like Davis was. He’s confident that he can turn the team around, way around. He makes bold decisions (hiring a rookie coach based on his evaluation of leadership qualities). He tells as he sees it — I think mid-season international friendlies are a good idea, and that’s the end of it; or none of the 11 who started the season will finish it.

    He and others like him are a highwire act. You can’t stop watching to see if he falls. If he makes it, great; that’s what he said he would do. If he doesn’t, well, I was there when it happened….

  3. Jill Roberts

    August 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I really think the whole thing is overblown. Taking things out of context is silly. Let the guy run the team. Friendlies will always happen, they are good for the city and they have a nice atmosphere. It’s typical Toronto stuff. The teams are bad teams, but the people care so much they lash out all the time. LOL

  4. bishopvillered

    August 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    I suppose “any reaction is a good reaction” and indifference = death, but a lot of the people I know who reacted to last night’s comments only caught them today. They did not partake in the event last night. So, in essence, TFC received none of the good, lots of the backlash, from Payne’s statement.

    Perhaps the next line in the sand will be met with far less reaction. Then, TFC is in deep trouble.

    SB

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