Columnist: Taxpayers shouldn’t shell out money if fans won’t show up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 28, 2016

By John A. Tures

Contributing columnist

Since the National Football League allowed the St. Louis owner to move his team to Los Angeles, a host of columnists have slammed the action, claiming the “loud and loyal” Rams fans would be hurt. But it ignores the fact that St. Louis had one of the least supportive fan bases in the entire NFL, which contributed to the move to L.A. And throwing even more taxpayer money toward a new St. Louis stadium that is likely to be fairly empty seems like a bad idea.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo News described the move as “cold and cruel,” adding, “This does nothing for those left behind in Missouri, the ones who loudly and loyally supported the Rams, who embraced the franchise, who made it part of their lives and now are told no one cares. The ones who didn’t do anything other than what the team asked them to do back in the 1990s prove that St. Louis was a viable NFL market.”

Simon Evans adds a quote from the Missouri governor in his Reuters article. “This sets a terrible precedent not only for St. Louis, but for all communities that have loyally supported their NFL franchises … St. Louis is a world-class city deserving of a world-class NFL team.”

Ben Rohrbach from Shutdown Corner adds words from the St. Louis Mayor.

“The NFL ignored the facts, the loyalty of St. Louis fans, who supported the team through far more downs than ups, and the NFL ignored a strong market and viable plan for a new stadium.”

He also includes a quote from the St. Louis County Executive, who claimed, “This region deserves an NFL team. This region is fully capable of supporting an NFL team. That team should have been the Rams.”

One might conclude that legions of fans were out there backing the Rams, and taxpayers should cough up money for a stadium to support them. But evidence paints a different portrait.

According to (based on information from ESPN), the St. Louis Rams finished dead last in the NFL in attendance, with an average of only 52,402 fans per game. That’s about 14,000 a game less than the completely awful Cleveland Browns, a franchise parodied for ineptitude.

It wasn’t much better in 2014. According to ESPN statistics, St. Louis averaged 57,018 fans a game, third to last in the league. And they didn’t travel well either, as combined with total fans in other stadiums, were second to last in the league in that category.

In 2013, it was a similar story, with St. Louis finishing second-to-last in attendance, according to statistics from ESPN. The team was third from last in attendance in ESPN data from 2012. And if anything, the statistics show a downward trend from 2012 to 2015.

St. Louis is tied for 10th in terms of media market potential, but in the bottom five for actual ratings. And if anything, the data from Sports Business Daily from 2013 showed that the team ratings declined over time. Their ratings are almost half of those of the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers from 2011-2013.

One could make the argument that the team plays in an ancient stadium, but it’s only about 20 years old. You could fault the team, but they had a coach who’s been to a Super Bowl, a quarterback with playoff experience, the most exciting rookie running back around with college star Todd Gurley and one of the better defenses. There was a reason to go to the game. Besides, teams with worse records had more fans in the stadium, or watching the game at home.

St. Louis lost the Hawks in basketball to Atlanta, the Cardinals of football to Arizona, and now the Rams. The city loves their baseball Cardinals and their hockey Blues, but the numbers show it just doesn’t seem like St. Louis can hold much more. And taxpayers should not kick in tons more money, if most folks in the region show little interest.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at