‘It’s A Long Road For Us’: ECFC Owner Hopes To Build Up Attendance
The second season is now firmly in the rearview for League1 Ontario side Electric City FC, who saw both its men’s and women’s teams qualify for their respective premier divisions next season despite missing out on playoffs.
The club – which frequently drew 500+ spectators in year one while also smashing the league’s attendance record in its inaugural home opener – unfortunately saw its follow-up season attendance figures dwindle to an average of around 200 spectators per match.
“I think it’s a long road for us to get in people’s minds as something they put on their calendar to come and see. I was a bit disappointed, I’m not going to lie.”
That isn’t to say that locals aren’t interested in sports: the Peterborough Petes enjoyed an average attendance of over three thousand in the 2021-2022 season, and is expected to hit similar numbers this season. Similarly, Peterborough’s championship-winning lacrosse team looks to be a big community draw, too.
In League1 Ontario circles, the Peterborough-based club is at a geographic disadvantage to its more metropolitan competitors, who have a larger local talent pool to pick from. Players coming to Peterborough from those areas need to be billeted, with ECFC’s professionally-styled daily training sessions adding further to club costs.
For a semi-professional side seeing slim attendances, that’s no small feat. Still, Couch is happy with the club’s competitiveness on the pitch.
“We don’t have the luxury of well-established feeder clubs players can come to us directly from, and yet we still managed to be competitive,” added the co-owner. “It would be a shame to just throw up our hands and say ‘the attendance is not there so it’s never going to work’. The question is, how long is it going to take to build that fan base in this area?”
Winning obviously helps, and while year two saw moderate success in locking in top flight status for League1 Ontario’s new promotion and relegation system, playoffs are the golden ticket to community hype – and that’s something the club has yet to taste.
Electric City’s second-season team looked quite different from the first: gone were more seasoned professional athletes like Quillan Roberts, Jordan Brown, and Zach Ellis-Hayden on the men’s side, with a younger-leaning team coming close (but not close enough) to a coveted playoff spot.
“We had a very competitive men’s team and it was right down to the very last day. A few bounces didn’t go our way, but otherwise it was a team very capable of making some waves in the playoffs,” reflected Couch.
The women’s side had endured a slower start to the season, with a return to form as things progressed seeing them come just a few points away from postseason access, too.
Crouch said he saw some encouraging signs when attendance shifted upwards later on in the summer season, believing that Electric City’s involvement with local organizations like United Way helped engage the community – something which has given him food for thought ahead of 2024.
What the next calendar year holds for Electric City FC remains to be seen: both the men’s and women’s sides will be in a much more competitive top flight, while it remains to be seen if head coach Randy Ribeiro will be back following the expiration of his contract. Should they reach playoffs, curious spectators could be converted into new fans.
One thing is certain: Electric City FC will be hoping to get its community buzzing again.
Header Image Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl / League1 Ontario