The Evergreen Premier League (EPLWA) was founded in 2013 and began play in 2014. Now in its second season, the eight team circuit serves a large portion of the State of Washington with playing, coaching and spectator opportunities at the elite adult level. Last year the league ended with an overall attendance average of 298 fans per match. The snapshot of the current season shows attendance is down by one-third, at 193 per match after 37 of the 56 matches have been played.
The clubs of the EPLWA look to ticket sales to help offset the costs of running their clubs. They also look at crowd numbers as a way to gage community interest and growing local soccer culture. The drop in attendance so far in 2015 is concerning, but there are a few factors to keep in mind as well as an important note. We’ll start with the note: the 19 remaining league matches include ten home contests for the current top three attended clubs, Bellingham, Vancouver and Spokane. So the final average for the league for 2015 is destined to climb over 200 at some point.
GRAPHIC: EPLWA club-by-club attendance averages after 37 league matches (2015.)
See match-by-match numbers for each club here.
Factors: Numerous factors have gone into the second season decline in EPLWA attendance. The “newness” is wearing off, but that is just the start of it. In Wenatchee the Capitals have played without a true “stadium” this year as the Apple Bowl is closed for the installation of Field Turf. Wenatchee’s average is down from 287 to 205 so far. In Spokane the Shadow had a home match the same weekend as the Lilac Festival (they drew just 217, their smallest crowd in two years) and the club also brought an active General Manager back in after the season had already started, missing the pre-season ticket push that had helped the Shadow lead the league with a 571 average in 2014. The Seattle Stars have played at three home venues, eventually signing a deal with Fuerza FC to let them host Stars matches in Snohomish County. It has been a failure at drawing any crowds. The Stars are averaging just 71 per home date. WestSound FC was last in the league in attendance in 2014 and their replacement from the same area (Kitsap County) is matching their numbers. WestSound averaged 135 and the Olympic Force are at 134 with one home match remaining. Yakima United are the only club whose attendance has increased, and we can point to their double header crowd with the Sounders Women for their boost up to a 305 average. South Sound FC continues to be challenged with getting fans out to Lakewood despite the team’s on-pitch success.
Final Push: As briefly mentioned above, there is plenty of hope that the trend will point upwards as the season moves towards its late July conclusion. Bellingham United still has four home matches to play, as does Vancouver Victory FC. The Spokane Shadow have two home matches remaining. Together that current top three are averaging a combined 412 fans per match.
Keeping Track: The Evergreen Premier League believes in keeping track of attendance figures. Though not always flattering, they do give an indication of growth and work that still needs to be done. The four Washington clubs in the Premier Development League (PDL) also post their crowds on the league website match reports. A few matches have no numbers listed, but with the posted numbers the current 2015 home averages are: Sounders U23 (584), Kitsap Pumas (384), Washington Crossfire (151) and Puget Sound Gunners (105). The lone NPSL club in Washington, FC Tacoma 253, has not posted their numbers. Note that the Pumas have only played two home league matches, with four left to host at Gordon Field.
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