There are a bunch of things that can be done to improve attendances, and strengthen the club and soccer on Vancouver Island.
1. Recognise that the mens team is your flagship attraction and your money maker, and accept that female sports leagues will never rival mens sports leagues in attendance. The mens team must be the advertising and scheduling priority. The womens team will probably have to be moved back to the PCSL, and that's not likely to affect the attendances they get, or the development the players get compared to W-League.
2. Eliminate "double-header" weekends at home. This is amateur. People will not pay, or schedule their lives, to watch something that is an amateur entertainment product, and perceived to be see by the use of double-header weekends; and they will not spend their whole weekend watching the same sports team. They will attend one game, or the other, but not both.
3. Set the home games at the same time, every week. No mid-week games, no double-headers. Just a mens or womens game, every Saturday night at 7:00, for three months, so that people know what they are doing, and when, weeks and even months in advance. This has to be insisted upon by this club, and every other club in the PDL that actually wants to create a fan-base. If PDL will not do this, then the Highlanders men cannot increase their attendances above the 1500 mark. Neither the men nor women will draw well on week nights. Having the womens team is necessary to create a game every week, which is vital given how short the season is.
4. The internet and media presence has to be increased. The news content on this site is often skimpy and usually slow to be posted. Is enough being done to make it easy for the TC, Chek, and local radio stations to report on this team? Today you HAVE to provide information to these organisations, all of whom are understaffed; and you have to engage people via the internet, Twitter, and Facebook. The Whitecaps are doing this. The Highlanders need to. Interview one player per week on the web site. Have a link to the Lake Side Buoys Facebook site. Give people a reason to go to the web site every week.
I disagree with the claim that the ticket prices are too high. I think they are in line with the product and competition from other options in Victoria. One of the biggest problems with soccer in Canada is too many people who say they want it being too cheap to pay for it. I just took my family to Vancouver for the weekend to watch the Lions and Whitecaps. Now THAT'S expensive. And the Whitecaps tickets aren't just $20 after you pay the pirates at TicketBastard their ridiculous fee.
This club is doing a LOT of things right. RAP is the best choice of venue. The calibre of play is good. The game day experience is good. The youth development programme, in both Victoria and Nanaimo, is ambitious. Having a womens team is necessary to create a schedule with a game every week, and it's also the right thing to do from a fan and development perspective.
I will do my bit, buy a season ticket, bring my pipes, chant and sing, as I have so far. I will make some flags and banners for the Lake Side Buoys end next year, which I haven't done yet. I will join Nathan in meeting with the club before the season, and seeing if the club will consider kilting us in a common tartan, etc, and perhaps have us play at the gate, or play the teams on the field every game, to increase the "presentation value" of the games. I will also invite a few new people to games with me next year. But this team can't rely on people like me who live in Duncan. It has to energise fans in Victoria.
I agree with Crewe Alexandra that I will not return to watching the PCSL with 30 friends and relatives of the players of Victoria United. I got to watch Josh Simpson, a future Canada international, play for Victoria United, but I'm not driving from Duncan to sit with 30 people in an empty stadium.
I believe that the 1,000 to 1,300 we saw for the last games at RAP this year would turn into 3,000 if Victoria were to move to the NASL, or if the CSA were to create a solid Canadian league with a western division that also included Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg. Unfortunately, that requires a lot of people moving in the same direction at the same time. Would 3,000 be enough, in 2011, to
Perfect summation. Couldn't agree more, you've hit every point on the head. Especially the internet social media presence. I mean the Bravehearts/Lakeside Buoys have more of a presence than the club. We shouldn't be relying on Twitters from the Southsiders fans to find out what's going on with our team on the road. I didn't even realize the club had a Twitter feed until the Fresno game. That was the one time I've used Twitter to follow anything...lol. Anyway, the marketing definitely needs to improve and having the games at a set time each week and eliminating double-headers would go far towards that end. Only problem is, the PDL holds all the cards there, so I don't think the club has much say in the matter. Just putting the women back in the original league, and focussing on marketing the men at RAP, would go far towards improving the club. As you say, it's not going to hurt the women's development. I'm all for the women's league, and would go to games if they're at RAP on the weekend. Wednesday nights in Langford is just not on for me though. Focus on the flagship mens team and the rest will grow naturally along with it.