The Toronto Raptors can’t win at home and they can’t win on the road, but there’s nowhere else for them to play. Maybe that’s why they jumped at the chance to cross the Atlantic Ocean to play a pair of games against the New Jersey Nets in London, England, on March 5 and 6. It came as no surprise to Raptors fans that they lost both games. However, losing the second game 137-136 might have been cause for some sort of celebration after losing the opener 116-103.
The Raptors might want to consider moving over to England permanently as they may draw bigger crowds than they do in Toronto. The Raptors and Nets pulled in close to 19,000 for each contest at the 02 Arena in London, while Toronto sits 17th in total attendance in the NBA. In fact, the Raptors have suffered at the gate at their home arena, the Air Canada Centre, quite a bit lately.
The club is only selling about 83 per cent of available tickets and this has forced it owners to drastically reduce ticket prices and to start a series of special nights and promotions to draw fans. This is almost unthinkable and unheard of in Toronto, since the Raptors are owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Limited (MLSE), which is one of the biggest money-grabbing organizations in all of sports.
MLSE is actually owned by the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund and is known the world over for gouging as much money as possible from its team’s fans. Not only do they own the woeful National Basketball Association’s Raptors, the group also owns the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL and Toronto FC of Major League Soccer (MLS). All three teams have the same thing in common. They’re awful, don’t make the playoffs, and charge some of the highest ticket prices in their respective leagues.
The worst of the bunch is the Maple Leafs, who haven’t won a championship since 1967. They haven’t made the playoffs for the last five years, yet their average ticket prices are the highest in the National Hockey League. Toronto FC hasn’t made the playoffs at all since joining MLS in 2007 and they also charge among the highest prices, higher than most English Premier League clubs.
The average price for a Raptors ticket is $64, but MLSE has been offering them for as low as $12.50 in some instances and this can’t sit well with them. The lack of fans though, is in relation to the team’s performance on the court. Frankly, they’re horrible. But Toronto isn’t known as a basketball city. Most fans attend games to see the visiting teams play, not the home club.
The Raptors weren’t always a lousy team. They made the playoffs in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2007 and won their division in 2006-07. That’s a total of five times since joining the league in 1996-96 and they were knocked out in the first round on four of those occasions. They’ve had a winning record in just four out of 15 season and sit 13th in the Eastern Conference this season with a 17 and 46 record as of March 7.
MLSE is having a hard time shifting Raptors tickets. And if there’s one thing MLSE hates it’s actually having to make an effort at putting fans in seats, especially at discounted prices. If the team doesn’t improve drastically next season, expect the Raptors to volunteer playing games in London every season.