TORONTO — Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment still doesn’t get it.
They say they get it. They think they get it. They’ve convinced themselves that they get it. But they don’t get it.
Toronto FC announced Thursday that it is rolling back the price of season ticket packages to 2007 levels (when the team was in its first year) for all current and past holders.
That this decision was taken by MLSE, the club’s high profile owners, should not come as a shock. The Reds began the current campaign with an MLS record nine-game losing streak. TFC is currently mired in last place in the league with a pitiful 5-20-7 record, is riding a 12-game winless run, and was eliminated from playoff contention in early September — with six weeks remaining in the season.
Now on its seventh coach, TFC has yet to earn a playoff berth in their six years in the league. A once promising soccer franchise has become a laughing stock and is no longer the least bit relevant, even by the comically low standards set by its Toronto sports brethren.
As far as the price rollback goes, it’s a great gesture and the right thing to do. It’s good that they’re listening to their fans and taking this step even though they’ll take a bath — and make no mistake about it, MLSE will suffer a pretty healthy financial hit.
But the price of season ticket packages isn’t the issue. It never was. Putting together a competitive team is the real issue. And on that front, MLSE has shown that it has no answers and no clue how to turn this team around.
One of the more telling aspects about Thursday’s announcement was the way it was delivered to the media. A select group of journalists and broadcasters who cover the team on a regular basis were invited to MLSE headquarters for a meeting with president Tom Anselmi.
Sat at the head of long table inside a boardroom, Anselmi spoke about the rationale behind the decision, and used terms such as “we haven’t done our job,” “we’ve made mistakes” and “we need to get this right.”
The floor was then opened to questions, and soon the queries came fast and furious.
How will the club get things right on the field?
Anselmi gave plenty of sound bites. Lots of vague ideas. But what he didn’t provide were concrete answers, only promising that all aspects of the team will undergo an end-of-season review before moving forward, including Paul Mariner’s future as coach.
Think about that for a minute. We’re currently in the third week of October. The new season starts next March. That’s five months away. Five months. And the person in charge of TFC, the man at the helm of this runaway train, doesn’t already have a concrete plan on how to turn this thing around?
Shouldn’t he know by now what the problems are, how to address them and have a plan ready to put in place? Does he really require more time to figure out what he needs most is a club president with a strong soccer background who can give the team strong leadership, a vision for the future and a clear path towards achieving success?
Even more sobering was Anselmi’s response to a question posed by former Canadian national team captain Jason de Vos. Asked directly who in the Canadian soccer community he is getting advice from with regards to fixing the direction of the club, Anselmi couldn’t even rattle a name off the top of his head.
#SMH, as the crazy kids say in the Twitter world.
Former national team goalkeeper Craig Forrest voiced similar concerns about the structure of the club’s management and the turnover of coaches, and stated rather pointedly that has to be fixed.
“We’ll take that under advisement,” Anselmi replied.
Yes, one hopes Anselmi would, but you’ll have to forgive those of us who are no longer willing to give MLSE the benefit of the doubt.
It’s been six years since this franchise entered the league. Other organizations have figured how to put together a competitive team and a decent product on the field in less time.
Bluntly, there’s absolutely no excuse for MLSE to not have figured this out by now. None.
Roll back ticket prices to 2007. Fine. Very good. Cut them back to 1912 levels if you want. Knock yourself out.
It won’t make a difference. Ticket price reductions are such a miniscule and peripheral concern. And that’s the problem with this ownership group: it’s very good at addressing the “small picture” issues. The “big picture” issues? Not so much.
Thursday represented a missed opportunity. The announcement should not have been about ticket prices, but what specific steps MLSE has for getting this right.
If MLSE really wants to regain so much of the good will it’s spurned, if it wants to get fans back onside, if it wants a return of the crazy atmosphere at BMO Field, cutting ticket prices won’t achieve any of that.
Putting a competitive team on the field will.