Vanier Cup: Ticket crunch comes to a head; Laval a victim of its own success?

Laval ran smack into a Canadian conundrum.

It's best to try to see both sides of The Globe & Mail report Calgary and Queen's were initially told they would only get 100 tickets apiece, which isn't even enough to accommodate the coaches and players' family and friends.
"... it was discovered that not enough tickets had been put aside to meet the demands of the finalists.

"And, there are complaints that powerhouse Laval University, organizers of this year's event, was so certain that its team would play in the final that it only set aside enough tickets to accommodate one outside team.

" ... Gilles Lepine, the Vanier Cup committee chairman at Laval, denied that not having the Rouge et Or in the game created the ticket crunch for the outside teams.

" 'Our first mission was to fill the place,' he said.

"Both Queen's and Calgary were initially told that they would have to split an allotment of 200 tickets between them – or 100 for each school.

" 'You're kidding?' (Queen's athletic director Leslie) Dal Cin said was her initial reaction when she first learned her school would only be getting 100 tickets.' " (emphasis mine)
Tickets are going for as much for $445 for a pair on eBay. It is an easy way out to chastise Laval after the fact for not setting aside 2,000-3,000 tickets to sell this week. Sure, they could sell them no problem if the hometown Rouge et Or were in the big game. However, Laval was trying to guard against being stuck with a large stock of unsold tickets. There's no shame in wanting the money up front. In all honesty, most took it as a testimonial to the passion of Laval fans and the program's business know-how when a sellout was announced in mid-October. Who knew that Queen's uniforms would apparently cause Laval's offensive line to go blind and thus be a step slow making their blocks last Saturday? (Well, some of us had a hunch, but it's not like Queen's could ask for tickets before it won the game.)

Dal Cin said it goes to straight to the top:
"I can tell you we've expressed our views to the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) and asked to ensure that the interests of the participating teams are taken care of and that has to be an absolute mandatory item of any bid going forward."
The rub is Canadians often tend to be last-minute ticket buyers. More than a third of ticket sales for the Mitchell Bowl came in the last 24 hours before kickoff; attendance was 6,972 and ticket sales were at 4,500 about 24 hours before the game). The challenge in Canada is trying to guarantee sizable gate receipts for a national event when amateur and university sports tend have a largely local following. It's not like the U.S. where a bowl game or NCAA basketball regional sells itself.

Morris Dalla Costa, bless him, wrote a column after last season's Vanier Cup (which drew only 13,873 in Hamilton) that pointed out that reality. He also offered a solution.
"Those who run Canadian university football need to recognize that location is everything when it comes to a championship.

The only way to ensure a product sells is to ensure the home team is involved.

" ... When the playoff system is based on single elimination, you can't guarantee a specific team makes the final, but there's nothing to say you can't guarantee the final will be played in a specific place involving the home team.

"Find some alternative to the regular season that will allow the playoff season to end a week earlier, leaving two weeks to prepare for the Vanier Cup.

"Since you know before the season begins which conferences will play in the semifinals, you can plan generally where the game will be played. It can alternate every year. For instance, this year Laval and Calgary played in the Uteck Bowl, while Saint Mary's played Western in the Mitchell Bowl. So the Vanier Cup could have been played at the home of the Mitchell Bowl winner. It can alternate depending on which conference and which team wins."
It's a good idea, but you see the irony. People thought going to Laval would ensure the home team was involved; how many "one-team league!" comments have we had on this site? A further unintended consequence of said suggestion, which has some merit (having a two-week bye could also help get the Vanier on a separate weekend from the CFL's Grey Cup) is that it might have traded one set of issues for another.

Calgary could not host a game this Saturday, due to the conflict with the Grey Cup. Queen's "ramshackle" and "rickety" Richardson Stadium (as described by the same Globe reporter) would probably be insufficient. They would likely have to rent Rogers Centre and then you're back to having 18,000 people in a cavernous dome just like in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

It's an intractable situation, to say the least.

(By the way, talk on the dot-org is that Hec Crighton Trophy finalist Benoit Groulx might step into the role of becoming Laval's QB coach. He knows their system as well as anyone after five seasons of running the offence.)

Football's hottest ticket isn't the Grey Cup; Sold-out Vanier game in Quebec City has few seats for fans of finalists from Queen's and University of Calgary (Robert MacLeod, The Globe & Mail)
The most important Canadian in history (Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post)
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  1. Just bought my Vanier Cup tickiet from Queens who ended up gettin 1000. But Laval apparently decided not to send down the tickets so instead I got a coupon that I will exchange for a ticket when I get to the game.

  2. Both of my kids scored tickets lining up yesterday at Queen's. CBC French station will air a bit of Queen's ticket demand tonight at 6 pm they said as they interviewed students at Queen's.

    I will take my chances at PEPS and will not settle for standing room, hoping to stare down a few anxious scalpers before the game or just after it starts.

    BTW who is home or visiting team for the Vanier as that will determine where I might choose to do battle for decent tickets?

  3. If the VC does not work at PEPS I hope they pull the 2910 game and move it someplace else!

  4. After years of bad Vanier Cup attendance - except 2006 in Saskatoon - let's please not complain about TOO MUCH interest in the Vanier.

    Drive to the game and get scalpers.

  5. We tweeted about Ben Groulx yesterday morning :P, it was an article in the Journal de Québec. We're not sure if Ben is going for a non-paying job (as the job is currently is) though.

    Let's just say that I think people of Qc city will probably wait a bit before buying their tickets in 2010.

    And I would be very surprise to see the stands fully packed Saturday, it's not because the tickets are sold that people are going... Weather look so-so

  6. Calgary is the home team and Groulx is going to be the QB coach - this was confirmed last week before the Mitchell Bowl - just was kept really quiet.

    As for the ticket situation, all fans had a chance to buy season tickets back in September when they went on sale for the VC - we ran ads for 6 weeks on CIS Touchdown promoting ticket sales.

    The fact is that teams have always been allocated 100 tickets for the game - but that's because there's never been a sell out of a neutral site Vanier Cup. So, instead of CGY having 200 tickets, they have 100.

    It's a perfect storm with Queen's being within driving distance and I feel for the parents, but where have the students been over the years for Queen's football? Asides the past two weeks (which weren't even sellouts) the Gaels draw typicially small crowds like most CIS schools.

    How was Laval to know that everyone in K-town would jump on the Q-train?

  7. History doesn't matter one bit here....

    Perfect Storm, could have bought season tickets, Kingston is too close, usually small crowds, etc, ad nauseum....

    What matters is this: how do you run a championship event properly? You always, always set aside enough tickets to meet the basic demand of the participating schools. In most championship settings this is considered to be four tickets per athlete, four tickets per coach, four tickets per staff/administrator who is directly involved with that team. For a football bowl/championship this is usually around 500 per team. If they don't use this allotment it can be returned to the pool.

    100 tickets per participating school is inappropriate for a football championship event. They can slice it any way they want, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things - this is wrong. Instead of making excuses it's time for the decision makers to stand up and take responsibility - "We screwed up. We're sorry. We'll learn from this mistake and it won't happen again." If this message isn't coming from the hosts, then it should most certainly be coming from the CIS.

    All of this aside - fantastic to see so much enthusiasm surrounding the VC!

  8. Actually annonymous, I'd like to know where you came up with the 500 tickets per championship?

    It's generally 2-tickets per player which would be 84 (42 man CIS playoff roster) and the rest are for coaches etc... Presidents, ADs, VIPs get accreditation and freebies, to basically what happens is that the average fan is left out in the cold.

    But that's sorta the same situation we're going to see in Calgary on Sunday with the Grey Cup. you don't hold back tickets when you can sell them.

    There are solutions to this problem for the future agreed, but the fact is if you want tickets,they're available for fans.

    Parents and family, I do feel compassion for, but it's not a mistake.

    Laval was the only organization to bid to host these Vanier Cups and put up the guarantees. No one else bid... no one wanted the property because they couldn't meet the financial guarantees to the CIS. Laval could, but they needed to sell the tickets.

    Therefore the fact is that due to a lack of interest and suitable facilities to create a demand (ie: venues around 20000 seats) we get into this chicken and egg situation.

    If this wasn't Queen's (or an Ontario based team) I think this discussion would have been a moot point. (IE: if the bowl rotation was different).

    I do agree with you that it's great to see a party atmosphere around VC!

  9. I.m sorry but setting aside a paltry 200 tickets for the visiting team in a stadium that
    can hold over 10,000 just doesn't cut it.
    In fact, that's so arrogant it defies belief....less than 2% of tickets available to the visiting team?
    Upon awarding Laval the privilege of hosting the VC, the CIS
    should have stipulated that 10% of the tickets would be set aside for the visiting team.
    I'd like to know where those precious tickets are located...probably in the farthest corner of stadium most likely.

  10. Law of supply and demand will come into play with the intangible called interest. When it is all said and done I expect to see at least 3000 Queen's supporters in the stands. Rouge et Or fans have the second best bon chance as a team other than theirs will have fans crawling the area looking for tickets.

    My guess is that there will be tons of tickets available to be bought/sold for list price plus 25% or minus 10% depending on the timing of your purchase and the location in the stands. Tickets behind Queen's bench and in between the 45 to 45 yard lines will command the highest price whatever time before the game.

    Kudos to Laval for even taking this game and the issue of setting aside tickets before Vanier will be dealt with at a CIS level with OUA, AUS and Can West having plenty to say after the season fully completed.

  11. Guys, we've got to specify what we're talking about here. The reality was that at the beginning of the week, there were only 100 tickets AVAILABLE to each team. By that I mean, for purchase, not as a free families allotment as John Bower seems to be indicating. Because of that subtle difference, this is pretty outrageous. I understand the organizers wanting to sell-out early, but the thing is if they reserved more tickets for the teams, and Laval makes it, they sell them all anyway. It was stupid, and as the last poster said, almost arrogant of them. Also, John Bower, if you look back, Queen's has always travelled well in big games, the last time they were at a Vanier they had almost 5,000 students there. We've also had the highest average attendance behind Laval 3 out of the last 4 years. Our student support is great, even if it's not at the level of a city that should have a CFL franchise.

  12. You think this is a tough ticket; try getting a ticket to an NCAA Frozen Four tourney game...

    Seems to be a lot of whining over nothing going on here...

    Great job Laval on marketing the Vanier Cup...if you can't get in; lots of great bars in Q.C. with big screen TVs... :)

  13. Although I agree setting aside only 200 tickets for the visiting team is pretty paltry for an event of this type, I don't think anyone truly beleived Laval wouldn't be playing this Saturday. Although I don't necessarily agree with the way tickets were sold ahead of the semi final bowl games, I can't exactly blame Laval for trying to fill their stadium.

    I can also attest that the reason not many Queen's students attend regular season games is because the OUA doesn't exactly produce a great football experience. Aside from playing Mac, Western or Laurier (2 of which I travelled to watch, with other Queen's students and alum), there isn't much to see. If you contrast that with the playoff games of the past two weeks, the crowds were electric, no one ever sat down, and the entire experience was incredible. Sounds like a regular season vs. playoffs for any other sport if you ask me.

    As for tickets for this Saturday, it took two days of searching but I managed to pull out 4 tickets at face value from a Laval fan. Just because the box office isn't selling them, doesn't mean you can't grab GA tickets for a good price. Seated tickets are obviously a different story, but let's be honest, unless you aren't capable, who is going to be sitting down during this game?

  14. I feel a message has to be sent to the CIS itself to make a ruling, a bylaw to ensure that when games are played in smaller stadiums on campus the ticket allocation is adequate. Because setting aside 200 tickets for 2 teams in a 13,000 seat stadium is not right!

    They opened up an extra 1000 tickets for Queen's for the game but they're all standing room around the track, not seated. Fans shouldn't be forced to go to scalpers to watch their team play and that's pretty much what's happened here.

    Saskatchewan did the same when they hosted the game in '06 however they lucked out, the Huskies made the game. So this isn't new this is common practice. And this is why a ruling needs to be made, in my opinion.

  15. If Queen's didn't poop the R & O party, we wouldn't have all those talks... and Qc city would be upside down... (as we stated on our blog today)

    The root of the problem is Queen's beating "The Golden Child"... :)

  16. Deux fans, i don't understand why you think it won't be full.... people won't sit on their 50$ tickets..... (and even if i look everywhere on the web, there is not 17500 tickets for sale online....) and by the way the weather forecast just got better (A mix of sun and cloud. High plus 3).

    The PR guy of CIS talked on TV tonight and said that in the contract, they had to keep 200 tickets for the visiting teams. So the problem came from the CIS.

    Finally, the 1000 or 2000 tickets that are becoming available online come from "bandwagon laval fans" who thought it was only "an extra Laval game". Those "fans" should never have a ticket in the first place. They would have fared better being held for the visiting teams....

    I'm from Quebec City, i'm a R&O season ticket holder, i was totally in the knowledge that the saturday game wasn't Laval vs ?? before i bought my ticket, and so we're my 12 friends sitting next to me at PEPS...

    Finally, hoping seeing some of you (especially Queen's fan!!) at the big tailgate friday on the Grande Allée and saturday at the game.

    Go Queen's Go !

  17. @Anonymous 8:00 - Living in Mtl, we really don't have inside knowledge on the popularity of VC amongst Qc citizen. The only thing we said, is that it will probably be weather dependant...

    As the forecast seems all right for Saturday, we guess 15k is possible...

  18. This brisk discussion and talk also elsewhere will set up a dandy 2010 season with VC at PEPS next year.

    Not to take anything away from Laval, but watching losses(Laval wins) at Mitchell Bowl in 2002 in a winnable game by the OUA's McMaster at Ivor Wynne in Hamilton and first half schooling of Western in Vanier(2008) with subsequent win by Laval, left bitter taste of being crapped on in our own OUA yard.

    It my great hope that Laval is a finalist next year and gets to VC so another conference can attempt to reverse the Laval/PEPS win streak.

    The CIS will for sure make sure this year's ticket debacle is corrected. In the meantime let's go buy up some of those coveted tickets when we are there in QC and reward those who had the stones to buy tickets in advance.

  19. Hi everyone,

    I just want to ensure that everyone understands that I am not justifying the situation, rather clarifying that the 100 tickets are apart of the hosting agreement and that's just because in the past it's never been an issue.

    This is a great problem for the CIS to have and I really hope that in the future we will have to worry about sell-outs after the 2011 edition here in Québec.

    As for Queen's, they have a passionate fan base, but I will say that even games in Ottawa, 2-hours away, there are never 5,000 fans who travel to games. That's just one of the things - when a team gets hot, we want to see them (I mean right now no one really wants to see an 1-6 team face a 3-4 team in week 7 where the game means little).

    Anyways, enjoy the game everyone! It's a great week here in Quebec City.

  20. The heart of the matter is CIS said, "Sell out the stadium" and the organizing committee did its job, maybe beyond our wildest expectations.

    It was a perfect storm. Laval gets knocked out by a team whose fanbase are very much event fans. There are some come-latelies, but that is fine.

    As someone else said, there isn't that mass movement in the regular season ... there's just not enough to see. However, there are at least 4 stadiums in the OUA (York, U of T, Ottawa and Waterloo) where Queen's often has almost as many fans as the home team. So their fans are there all season long, relative to some teams.