Last summer, 72,000 fans packed M and T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to watch a “friendly” between Chelsea and AC Milan. This summer, with less than two weeks before Inter Milan and Manchester City take to the field at M and T Bank Stadium only 30,000 tickets have been sold.
This worries local boosters of Baltimore as a site for games of the 2018 or 2022 World Cup. The idea is that of the 18 cities listed as finalists in the US bid, only those showing the strongest support for soccer will be selected to play host to games. Three explanations for the lack of ticket sales are suggested by the people with stakes in the outcome.
One opinion is that people may think the game is sold out already. The match between Chelsea and AC Milan was sold out two weeks in advance.
A second explanation is that local fans are not familiar with the players on either of this year’s competitors. Last year fans could expect to see Ronaldhino and Didier Drogba. Advertising also raised awareness of the stars that would participate. This year the teams don’t boast players with such impressive resumes or wide-spread recognition.
A third explanation is that last year was the first time such an event occurred. Not said in so many words, the implication is that there was a huge novelty effect component to attendance at the 2009 match. Now that the novelty has worn off, attendance is approaching a more sustainable level. Obviously, that perspective is not one boosters of the 2018/2022 bid want to push too loudly.
An interesting perspective on attendance is offered by Baker Koppelman the person in charge of ticket sales for the Baltimore Ravens (through which the event is promoted and to whom much of the net revenue will accrue). Even if attendance is only 35,000, “There probably haven’t been too many soccer matches in the U.S. that have drawn more than that,” Koppelman said. I suspect that is not a selling point for the US Bid committee either.
The full Baltimore Sun article is here.