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Thursday 2 June 2011

The Canadian Home-Match Experience

    Fantastic scenes at Canada’s friendly match last night hosting Ecuador at BMO Field in Toronto. A stunning first half strike by Terry Dunfield, followed by his leap into the South End of Voyageurs, gave Canada a lead at the half. Ecuador sprung to life in the second half, ‘Chucho’ Benitez heading an equalizer from a corner and Michael Arroyo lashing the go-ahead strike from 30-yards two minutes later. Quick thinking from Julian de Guzman, as Ecuador was pre-occupied protesting the award of a free kick, found Tosaint Ricketts alone in front of goal. He slotted past the Ecuadorean keeper to level the score, a bit of controversy went Canada’s way – for once- to earn a 2-2 draw.

    The conundrum of “Home Matches” has long been the bane of Canadian Supporters. There has been a steady growth of crowds over the past few years, but some minor adjustments could improve the experience and help increase the gates.

    Firstly, the kick-off time of this match was too early. 7 pm in a big city is too close to rush-hour traffic, getting to the stadium by automobile, was difficult and frustrating. By just moving the start time to 8 pm it would have eased much of this discomfort, given time for more pre-match organization, and had the added effect of making the air time more comfortable for the rest of the country. For those in Vancouver the match aired at 4 pm, when people are either at work or in transit. Though 5 pm is not great, it is better, perhaps leaving work early to congregate somewhere to watch the match would be possible.

    Secondly, while some concern themselves with the masses of heritage-fans who attend the match, they are not the real problem. That is not something that can really be fought, nor should it be. As the Canadian support grows there will be less room available for these people; until that day they will help maintain a high revenue stream that will encourage the CSA, the ground, and the like to have more of these matches. This can only be a good thing. The important thing here would be to encourage Canadian fans to clump together. General Admission tickets based around which sort of experience one desires and whom one is supporting would be of great assistance. Dividing the stadium into Voyageur, Canadian, Visitor, Neutral, and Family sections could help deter any potential clashes, while encouraging fan interaction. Say, for example, that the South and South-East stands were for Voyageurs and Canadian fans, the North and North-East stands for the opposition with the band of neutrals or dual support (of which there were quite a few at last night’s match) in the middle of the East stand. The family section could be the West stand, which could also accommodate more Canadian, neutral, or opposition fans as applicable.

    Lastly the second deck of the West stand needs to be given away or at extreme discount to youth soccer clubs and their parents-chaperones, as well as other good-natured child-based organizations such as boy scouts, girl guides, etcetera, even school field trips would be acceptable. The cost of opening and attending concessions would easily be covered by the profits; it would fill out the attendance and maybe just inspire a youngster to become a soccer player, if not at least a supporter. 

    Things are not as dire as some of the more hardened supporters would believe. There was a noticeable increase in Canadian support from the Peru match to this and it should, with patience and continued hard work, be another step forward in the long trek to an ideal future.

Miss the Match? Wonder what is was like in the Stadium? Have a gander… Courtesy of Paul Giamou.

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