Soccer in Orlando: Truth in Numbers (Part 1)

There are still a lot of questions regarding Major League Soccer in Orlando. Orange County Commissioners remain frustrated as it is still hard to find any information or data confirming the claims and misrepresentations being made by Mayor Teresa Jacobs or the team representatives. They are weighing in through memos, and many have stated on the record this is far from a done deal.

But there is truth in numbers, right? Well, sometimes. I will be posting the truth using some real numbers in professional sports in my next post, but today I want to address some more misrepresentations and inflated numbers.

Tonight, there is another playoff game for the Orlando City soccer team and I want them to win. But it appears the team has been fluffing up their numbers to try to win last-minute support for their stadium and MLS bid. Last week, the team reported an “announced” attendance (how convenient to be the announced count not actual count) of close to 8,000 for their first playoff game. However, that was clearly not the case – as it has not been the case all season.

Here are some real reports from the Citrus Bowl last week. First, an attorney and friend passed along to the Fight Back Coalition that it was an awful turnout and very confusing experience for her first time at an Orlando City Soccer game. She said there was not a large crowd, and at best, half of the “announced” crowd of 8,000.

Another contact emailed me directly saying he attended the first playoff game out of curiosity – oh and the fact he got a free ticket AND free parking. He confirmed low attendance, saying “Nowhere near 8K in attendance. I would doubt if 5K were there. I’m sure they are throwing tickets everywhere to try to get people on board.”

Rawlins free tickets to OCGiving away free tickets (and free parking in some cases now) isn’t new for the soccer team, but it is odd for a playoff game, especially if there is so much team support in town. We already know that the team tried to give away 1,000 free tickets to Orange County for an earlier game and that less than a handful of county employees actually attended. We hope this wasn’t an attempt to win special favor with Mayor Jacobs’ office as they begged her for millions of public dollars. It’s understandable the team is fluffing their numbers to tell a better story and to look stronger, all teams do it. By giving away tickets, the team can claim a higher “announced” attendance. But as a friend who attended the game last week said: “This was for a playoff game even. I wouldn’t be bragging about attendance after that.”

This deal is looking worse and worse as more time passes. Probably why Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer tried to fast-track the soccer stadium proposal and push it through.

Remember, soccer needs FIVE votes from the Board of County Commissioners to allocate the $20 million in funding for a new soccer-specific stadium. It’s time to stop this proposal no matter what the “announced” attendance for tonight’s game may be.

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