The Columbus Crew engaged in a bit of historical revisionism on Tuesday afternoon, taking the unusual step of announcing a revised attendance figure for a recent game. Crew fans could be forgiven for focusing on performance-related figures such as wins and losses, but Tuesday’s announcement may prove to help the team just as much off the field as any victory.
The team announced that the official attendance figure for its recent home game against FC Dallas has been changed from 4,680 to 20,617, after the league clarified its policies regarding attendance figures. The announcement erases what had been the team’s worst-ever home crowd, and instead sets the stage for what could be a record-breaking year at the gates. Columbus now boasts its fifth-highest average attendance in team history, and their best mark since 2002.
Tuesday’s announcement was set in motion on June 28 when the team first cancelled, then postponed, its home game against FC Dallas. The decision was made out of respect for a fan who was tragically injured by a lightning strike during inclement weather before kickoff.
Against this backdrop, and with available dates for rescheduling at a premium, the game proceeded the following afternoon in front of the smallest league crowd in team history. Fewer than 5,000 fans watched the teams play to a scoreless draw that kicked off at 2 PM, less than 18 hours after originally scheduled.
While the result extended the Crew’s winless streak to four games – it would eventually reach seven before last Saturday’s victory – it also sabotaged the team’s average attendance. Columbus dropped to near the bottom of the league attendance figures, sinking from 14,276 to 13,076. Even last Saturday’s sellout crowd was unable to recover the ground lost, pushing the needle only to 13,937.
The revised figure accounts for tickets that had been sold for the originally-scheduled kickoff, which was projected to be a sellout crowd. Thanks to that swing of nearly 16,000 fans, the team’s average attendance now stands at 15,530.
That figure may not count for much in a league where seven teams have average crowds larger than the capacity of Crew Stadium, but it is still a significant improvement over recent years. The team’s new average attendance is more than 5% larger than last year, and 43% larger than the nadir of 2011.
The last time the team had an average crowd size this large at this point in the season was in 2002. There were now two sellouts in the first ten games, a feat only achieved in 1999 and 1996. Since the team’s inaugural season the record for home sellouts is four – achieved in 2004. That figure could now be surpassed, as the trend in recent years has been for crowds to swell significantly through the late summer and into fall.