Wins and Losses Have No Bearing On NFL Attendance

dallas cowboys stadiumCowboys Stadium was packed in 2010 even though the Cowboys stunk

Photo: AP

You’d think that fans would be more likely to go to their team’s games when they win, right? Well, 2010 NFL attendance figures indicate otherwise. 

The 2-14 Carolina Panthers, the worst team in the league, played in front of home crowds that were 98.4% full, good for 13th in the NFL. The Denver Broncos were almost as bad as the Panthers at 4-12, but ranked just ahead of them in attendance at #12.  And the Dallas Cowboys filled Cowboys Stadium to 108.8% capacity despite going just 6-10 in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs captured the AFC West with 10 wins, but ranked 27th in the league in attendance.  The New York Jets finished 11-5 but were ranked 18th in attendance, and the Atlanta Falcons finished 13-3 but ranked 19th in attendance. 

NFL Attendance

*Attendance ranks based on percentage of capacity filled for home games

One theory might be that attendance doesn’t fluctuate quickly in conjunction with wins and losses, that a team must have a steady string of losing seasons to see its attendance drop, or a steady string of winning seasons to see an attendance bump.

The problem is that these six teams have finished all over the place in the standings over the last three years, yet their attendance has remained relatively constant.

You can see that the Chiefs, Jets, and Falcons experienced small boosts in 2010 thanks to winning seasons, but not as much as you might think. The Panthers, Broncos, and Cowboys did virtually the same in 2010 as in 2009 despite having awful seasons. 

The truth is that each team’s attendance doesn’t change much from year-to-year regardless of how the team does on the field.  The Cowboys are the league’s biggest draw despite winning just one playoff game since 1996, and the Raiders are the league’s most unappealing team thanks to the inept ownership regime of Al Davis.

There are bigger factors at play than wins and losses when it comes to attendance.  Denver was buoyed this year by the arrival of Tim Tebow and the Cowboys have played in front of a packed house the last two years because they’ve got a new stadium. On the flip side, the Jets have a new stadium, but had trouble selling tickets because of the ridiculous prices of PSLs.

The list could go on, because the fact of the matter is that there are dozens of factors that impact attendance, but wins-and-losses aren’t high on that list.

*Attendance figures from ESPN

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