Monday, March 31, 2008

Ten Facts That Might Be Wrong: Part 1

We here at UF really scour every corner of the Internet—it has corners, doesn't it—to bring you the best of gay iconic managers embroiled in sex tape scandals, ugly uniforms, and bitching about shit performances by either Arsenal or Liverpool.

Occasionally we stumble across something of actual interest.

Then we promptly ignore it.

Until someone dug up this. It's a list of "10 Important Facts About Soccer's U.S. Popularity." And it's full of interesting little tidbits.


Unfortunately, there is almost no data to support the facts. They are just thrown out there by someone calling himself Ric. And I'm not badmouthing Ric for a lack of a surname. Hell, I go by Precious Roy.

Anyway, in response to Ric's lack of disclosure, one particularly sharp UF'er piped up on an email and said, "I'd love to see some data backing those up."

Done and done. Sort of. It's in the process of being done.

I was originally going to write one post addressing all ten items, but, after poking around the Net for data to discuss just the first, I realized this could easily be an enormously time-consuming pain in the ass and I'd like to sleep before, say, Tuesday.

Plus it would be far too long for anyone to want to read.

So, I'm going to do it in pieces. The pieces might get shorter as I get lazier and the claims get easier to deal with—specifically, I might start combining more than one of "Ric's" items into one of "Precious Roy's" posts—but installment number one deals only with claim number one. And claim number one reads as follows (emphasis and italics his):

1. Major League Soccer has a league-wide attendance average similar to the NBA and the NHL. The LA Galaxy - for many years the most popular MLS team by attendance - has had an attendance average higher than the NBA’s LA Lakers 3 out of the last 4 years, and higher than the LA Kings every year in this decade.


The average attendance for MLS in 2006 (I went with pre-Beckham numbers so as not to allow one Brit to skew everything) was 15,354. For the same year, average NBA attendance was 17,558; and NHL attendance was 16,550. Those numbers represent an increase over MLS of 14.3% and 7.8% respectively.

So are those numbers "similar"? The NHL, maybe. The NBA, a little less so, as 15% is fairly substantial.

But there is a problem with this analysis. Well actually there are two problems, but we'll take the obvious one first.

Think about the second claim, that the Galaxy had a higher average than the Lakers for three of the last four years. First, I didn't bother to confirm this. It is true for 2006, but I didn't feel like looking it up for the other 3 years. Why? Because it doesn't really mean much as a statistic.

Capacity for Staples Center in L.A. (where the Lakers play its home games) is only 19,079. The Lakers pretty much sell out every home game as they average over 99% of capacity—or 18,882 per game.

Capacity for the Home Depot Center, on the other hand, is about 50% greater than Staples Center at 27,000.

So yeah, the Galaxy outdraw the Lakers on average, but that's more a function of where they play than a function of popularity. The Lakers aren't less popular than the Galaxy they just play in a smaller venue. Their constraint is the size of their arena.

But the Lakers along with every other NBA team (and every other NHL team for that matter) also play 41 home games, compared to 16 home games for an MLS team.

Look at the 2006 Lakers' home total for the season of 774,189, and it dwarfs the Galaxy's total of 333,024 for the same year (from the average of 20,814 multiplied by 16 home games). So the Lakers, the 7th-highest drawing NBA team, pull in 2.34 times more fans in a season than MLS' top-drawing L.A. Galaxy.

The other problem with this analysis is that all attendance numbers are lies. Consider this. It's an About blogger relaying a non-scientific account of a beat writer questioning the attendance numbers of a Detroit Red Wings hockey game. The announced attendance was over 20,000 and the reporter claimed there couldn't have been more than 13,000.

So it's an anecdotal account. Big deal, right? It's not reliable.

Well, there's also this from the San Diego Union Tribune.

Yeah, it's kind of long. The gist is that everyone is inflating their numbers.

Maybe read this instead. It's much shorter and gives you the basic idea of how leagues report their attendance figures.

It might be most troubling for MLS though. What good are the MLS attendance numbers when a turnstile crowd of a Red Bull New York match is 3,719 but the announced crowd is 12,657?

Even worse, there is evidence that MLS is inflating beyond using "announced" instead of "turnstile" numbers.

This isn't to slam MLS. Hell, drawing around 10,000 for a soccer game in a non-soccer specific stadium in the US? That seems pretty good. Especially for a mid-week game.

Anyway, everyone is lying about their attendance numbers, MLS might be lying more than anyone else (or they might be getting out-lied by the NHL), but by any reasonable measure (and that probably doesn't include per-game average) the NHL and the NBA easily out-draw the MLS.

Although, if you believe ESPN literally nobody attends soccer matches in the US.

1 comment:

ü75 said...

That ESPN link is awesome.