TORONTO – Facing a backlash of criticism from supporters, Toronto FC responded to a situation they said they "screwed up."
Parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment posted an open letter Wednesday on Toronto FC’s website, apologizing to fans for adding games to the 2011 season seat-holder package. The move significantly raised costs on top of a previously announced price increase.
A portion of the letter reads, “Recently we have received a lot of feedback from our fans, season seat holders and supporters. One of the most prevalent issues you have brought to our attention is the 2011 season seat package. We screwed up.”
“In hindsight, the increased number of games in 2011 season seat package you received in September was a mistake," the letter continues. "We have listened to your feedback and eliminated two [CONCACAF Champions League] games which will reduce your ticket package price accordingly. … We need to build a team that earns the right to sell you these extra games.”
Package prices for 2011 reflected 17 home league games, two Nutrilite Canadian Championship matches, two CONCACAF Champions League matches and next month's 2010 MLS Cup final at BMO Field.
Packages for 2011 were up for renewal, but the increase couldn’t have been timed worse. With TFC officially eliminated from playoff contention last Saturday, supporters were already upset, but their ire significantly rose over the last two weeks when they received their renewal packages in the mail.
“Two things happened," MLSE executive vice president and COO Tom Anselmi said Wednesday in an interview with Toronto sports-radio station The Fan 590. "The season didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to and our fans are upset, and I don’t blame them and we are as well."
“This year it all piled on," he added. "The regular season expanded by two games, MLS Cup is added to the package and we added two more [Champions League] games and it was just too much at once. We screwed up.”
With the CCL games removed, the new package will now have 20 games instead of 22. Comparatively, this season, subscribers paid for 15 regular-season matches, two NCC matches and an international friendly — a total of 18 games.
“The issue here is four extra games that, in some cases, added between 20 percent and 30 percent to the total price the customer paid," Anselmi said, "and you know what? They’re right. It’s too much."
The club also said it will stage a series of four "Town Hall" meetings with supporters at BMO Field on Oct. 14, 18 and 21 to hear concerns and maintain an ongoing two-way dialogue.
Toronto FC have been a resounding success at the gate since their inaugural 2007 season, routinely selling out BMO Field with a season ticket base of 17,000. After missing the playoffs in 2009 on the last day of the season, MLSE said anything less than the playoffs in 2010 would be unacceptable.
With the team struggling in the season’s final third, Anselmi dismissed director of soccer Mo Johnston and coach Preki last month, but that didn’t prevent the club from missing the MLS playoffs for the fourth straight season.