Sports Teams Running Out of Fans
Fan attendance can decline for any number of reasons — but poor performance is usually the culprit when ticket sales are down. Multiple consecutive losing seasons can try fans’ loyalty and ultimately hurt ticket sales. Many teams on this list have gone years without a playoff appearance. The Philadelphia Phillies, for example, a team with a 31% 10-year attendance decline at home games, has not had a postseason appearance in five years, and it is currently in last place in the league.
Ticket sales are also a measure of how loyal a team’s fan base is. Some teams on this list, including the Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes, have only been based in their home cities since the mid-1990s. Fan loyalty for these teams may not be as strong as it is in cities that have hosted the same team for many decades.
Other teams on this list are further affected by a split market. Cities like Chicago and Los Angeles have two baseball teams each. With one market for two teams in the same sport, both the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels are among the teams losing the most fans. In each case, the team losing fans has had fewer playoff appearances over the last decade than the team sharing their city.
Support for teams can also wane in the absence of a standout athlete. Before the Denver Nuggets had a 14% decline in average home game attendance, the team’s roster featured superstar Carmelo Anthony, one of the best and most exciting players in the NBA. After Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks in 2011, the Nuggets lost visibility nationwide and sold fewer tickets.
Several teams on this list have also been the subject of controversy in recent years. Both the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians have come under fire for their logos and mascots, which many consider to be offensive to Native Americans. While the extent to which bad press hurts home game ticket sales is not clear, many potential fans may be turned off by the clubs’ insensitivity.
To determine the teams losing the most fans, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 10-year percentage changes in average attendance at regular-season home games in the NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL. Attendance figures are from ESPN and are as of the most recent completed season and the season 10 years prior. To avoid attendance declines based on a reduction in stadium capacity, franchises that built a new facility or moved to a new city in the intervening years were excluded. The average percentage of capacity filled during home games in a season for the NHL, NBA, and NFL also came from ESPN and is as of the most recently completed regular season. In the case of the MLB, average capacity filled is based on the average home game attendance from ESPN and officially listed stadium capacities. All current-season records are as of the morning of July 17, 2017. Due to insufficient attendance data, the Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Minnesota Vikings — all NFL clubs — were not considered.