Layson: It's free for all at Western

Who doesn't like free stuff? And if this weren't a family friendly blog I'd call it free something else that starts with an S because that's usually what it ends up being in the end.

Well, I'll tell you who doesn't like free stuff. The guy who wrote this post you're currently — okay, hopefully still — reading.

There's nothing I can stand less at sporting events than middle-aged men dressed in business casual polo shirts and khakis while spilling their $10 beers while attempting to flag down a too-small, silk-screened T-shirt with a cell phone logo on it.

But the Western Mustangs of the OUA have taken the free stuff phenomenon one step too far. According to the Western Gazette, the school's daily newspaper, the Mustangs are offering students free admission to all Western Mustangs games on campus next season.
Free sports for all

Students will receive free admission to all Western Mustangs games on campus next year, after the Intercollegiate Athletics budget was granted a two per cent increase in funding by the University Students’ Council’s Student Services Committee.

The only events that will not be free to students are playoff and Homecoming games.

USC President Stephen Lecce is hopeful the free admittance will boost both attendance and school spirit.
Leave it to student council to not understand athletics — or a business model.

Let's see. What else has been offered for free of late? Hmm. Newspapers. Music — OK, so it's been pirated. But you catch my drift. Incidentally, how are those two industries doing? One's nearly bankrupt as a whole and the other is claiming to still bleed money.

Whenever you give anything away you immediately devalue the product and create a state of apathy. Picture it:
FRESHMAN 1: Want to go to see the Mustangs play Guelph today?
FRESHMAN 2: Nah. We'll go next week. It's free, remember?
If you force a person to buy a ticket in advance, they're more likely to actually use the ticket.

If you tell someone they can attend the game for free, you're telling that potential fan your team and the gameday experience is worthless. And if there's a Canadian school where that simply isn't the case, it's Western.

People watching is free of charge. So is a scenic country drive. Not even thoughts are free. A penny for your thoughts, sir?

Sports shouldn't be free — especially not at this elite a level.

Suddenly, it costs the same to watch varsity sports at Western as is it does to watch an intramural game. Nothing.

The late, great Bill Veeck just turned over in his grave. And somewhere, his son Mike wept.

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  1. Regular-season games (hockey, football, basketball) are free of charge for students at Waterloo and have been for years. And attendance is awful.

    The counterpoint someone could make here is that students can't afford to go to games all the time, but that doesn't really hold water: something like $5 for CIS basketball, football, or hockey (especially CIS hockey) is a great deal.

  2. Exactly Rob. They can afford $4 beers downtown (wait, college kids don't drink right?) but they can't afford a $5 ticket to a football game? I don't buy it.

  3. They can afford $4 beers downtown

    I'd like to know where I could get a $4 beer in a decent downtown establishment.

  4. Touche J.R.

    Don't forget I'm (getting) old.

  5. Little known that first year students at University of Ottawa have been able to get into regular season games free for years.

    It is little known among Ottawa students as hardly any freshmen attend varsity games.

    Another example that making it free does nothing to boost attendance. Greg may be right that it actually hurts attendance by devaluing the varsity product.

  6. Student tickets have been free at most AUS schools (I believe) for years and attendance has always been good - must be an Ontario thing ;)

  7. Studen tickets at U of Calgary are free, except for playoffs, which are heavily discounted, and tournaments, which are not. When I went to McMaster, student tickets were free to regular season games, too.

    I'm not sure making students pay increases attendance. "Pay for a beer or pay for a game? I'll take beer" would have been the logic when I was at school. And the quality of the product on the ice/court/gym/pool didn't really matter; what did matter was that free made it possible to be spontanious.

    University sport generally is a lousy business model. But it's not a normal business in many ways; ask a basketball player who's enrolled in engineering, giving him two full time jobs.