There were two matches this week, and two unsatisfactory results.
The Thorns traveled to Houston for Wednesday’s 1-1 draw. Back home, the official viewing party was hosted at The Station Public House on Alberta Street. There was a full house and the match was shown on all their many screens. The Thorns’ hospital ward was there. Emily Menges told me that she was ready to come back and looking forward to it. And, of course, she did start on Saturday. Happily, none of the injured Thorns were on crutches or looked in any pain. AD Franch was walking normally with only an ace bandage on her knee.
Mother’s Day Eve brought the Orlando Pride to town for a rematch of the home opener. The same two-to-one score was achieved but this time the Thorns were on the losing end.
Saturday was a hot day, more like August than May, and several Riveters got a sunburn. The stadium was still tot-less – it’s been almost a month since the club announced that we had #SavedTheTots but nothing has actually shown up in the fryers.
On Saturday, the banner gnomes finally got to display the Emily Menges banner. Otherwise there was nothing new, although Androcles’ lion with a thorn in his paw is always popular for Orlando Pride matches.
Wednesday saw two matches. The Dash drew only 2,668 for their midweek matchup with the Thorns – their lowest attendance yet in what’s been a poor season for them. The Royals brought in 7,137 for their Wednesday game with Orlando. This was also their lowest attendance of the season, but only slightly lower than the previous weekend match. More on that topic below.
The weekend attendance was respectable league-wide. We drew 17,115 and are now down 2.1% from last season at this point. North Carolina had their best crowd of the year at 5,866 bringing them up to 1.5% below 2017. Chicago is still struggling with only 2,372 to watch them play Houston. But Seattle pulled in 3,607 which has them up 12.9% over this time last year. League-wide, attendance is up 20.6% over the 2017 average, essentially unchanged from last week.
The disparity in home matches is very pronounced for being this early in the season. The Courage have had six home games, while Seattle and Sky Blue have had only two. North Carolina is going to have some heavy road trips in the future, and the Reign and New Jersey will get some long homestands.
The Portland-Orlando match was Lifetime’s Game of the Week. Once again the ratings failed to break into Saturday’s top 150 list. The last show on the list (an infomercial on USA Network) drew 89,000 viewers, so Lifetime’s broadcast was something less than that.
Scheduling for Attendance
Do midweek games hurt attendance? Intuitively, you would think it might. I went through all the 2017 matches in NWSL and sorted them by day and time. The breakdown is Midweek (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday), Friday evening, Saturday midday, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening. For each time slot, I calculated the attendance compared to each team’s season average.
The chart below shows the plot of each team’s relative attendance by timeslot. Teams that group close to the 100% line see little effect from the schedule. The dots that are farther up or down see a bigger effect.
And here is the data in table form, which may be easier to follow.
Many of the teams saw very little impact from the schedule. Others suffered badly. Note, for example, FCKC, the Spirit and the Courage who had very poor turnouts on weekdays. All three clubs play(ed) in suburban locations which may deter visits due to traffic and getting kids home in time for school the next day. There are some caveats on this supposition: many teams only had one of these games in 2017 so the sample size is very small; and in FCKC’s instance one of their two weeknight games was the storm game that didn’t even kickoff until after 9:00 pm local time.
In any case, location is not the complete explanation, because the Red Stars and Sky Blue are also located far from downtown, yet they saw good numbers for their one weeknight match.
Ultimately, the effect is muted. Some teams suffer a bit, others don’t. Overall, it has only a small effect as you can see on the “Entire League” totals. Based on 2017 numbers, the answer to the hypothesis is “no”. Midweek games have only a mild impact on attendance, not materially different than a Sunday evening game.
For Portland, the non-weekend attendance was very close to the season average, albeit only a one game sample. This is important because in 2018 the Thorns have seven (!) of these matches on the schedule.
I am collecting data for 2018; it’s too early to draw any conclusions. We can only hope that Thorns fans continue to not care too much what day of the week the matches fall on.
The Thorns play next at Washington this Saturday, May 19, at 4:00 pm. The official viewing party is at Grand Central on SE Belmont and 8th Avenue. The game will be shown on GO90. Our next home game will be the Utah Royals on the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully the intervening two weeks will bring lots of healing and we’ll be close to full strength.
Onward Rose City!