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Thursday, 04 October 2012 15:01

Broncos’ ‘last legs’ solid, but plenty of work to be done

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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Maybe, just maybe, reports of the Swift Current Broncos’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.


When a prominent national sports blog floated an unsourced rumour last month that the Broncos were “on their last legs,” speculation began to run wild that they would be leaving town at the end of the year, or month, or next episode of Survivor.
But when the Broncos announced a $4,000-ish profit for the 2011-12 season, after eating a $197,000 loss the year before, their so-called last legs suddenly looked pretty lively.
You don’t engineer a $200,000 turnaround sitting back on your haunches and waiting for the end, after all.
That’s not to say the financial picture is rosy in the Broncos’ stable just yet.
Last year’s hockey operations loss was close to $1 million. But it smells a lot less like manure than it did a year ago at this time.
Whether team officials will admit it publicly or not, the Broncos can sustain themselves on $5,000 profits year-in and year-out. If this is the new normal – and board chair Liam Choo-Foo does refer to 2010-11 as “a perfect storm” of bad luck – then the Broncos aren’t going anywhere for awhile.
But where the team’s leadership deserves the most credit is for their long-term vision that merely being sustainable isn’t good enough.
Choo-Foo, general manager Mark Lamb and business manager Dianne Sletten believe that, Canada’s smallest junior hockey market be damned, the Broncos can still be a “premier franchise” in the Western Hockey League. And that means aiming for six-figure profits. Every year.
Eventually, that might mean having the nicest dressing room in the league.
Or providing players with excessive amounts of the best equipment around.
Or putting some of that profit right back in their players’ pockets through increased weekly pay or performance bonuses.
It doesn’t take a players’ union to point out that these are the things many of today’s players are thinking about when they get the chance to decide what jersey they’ll wear. If the Broncos truly wish to be a premier franchise, they’ll need those six-figure profits to play ball.
The catch is that, if it’s true that most of sports marketing is winning, it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario.
To attract the players who will create a consistent winner, the Broncos need money. To bring in the money they need to reach “premier” status, the Broncos need a winning team that can drive playoff revenue.
They’ll also need help from a new and dedicated group of fans. Most of the Broncos’ growth potential is in the stands, with between $200,000 and $250,000 worth of seats going unsold in each of the last two years.
Winning attracts fans but so does accessibility. You don’t have to look very hard in Swift Current to find one or 22 people who will tell you the Broncos have a lot of work to do in that area.
To wit, the Broncos set a team record for community appearances in 2011-12 and were met with a modest three per cent increase in attendance.
If even a handful of fans, sponsors or other partners feel the players, coaches or organization at large are taking them for granted, the Broncos will quickly find out how small the Swift Current market can be.

Read 1672 times Last modified on Thursday, 04 October 2012 15:08