The Falcons are in the first year of the Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot era in Atlanta, but it hasn’t been the start most fans had hoped for. To begin the season, fans were mildly excited for this new regime to open 2021 against the Eagles. SportsTalkATL’s owner and founder, Chase Irle, attended the season opener against Philadelphia, and he came away disappointed with the fan attendance.
In what was supposed to be a highly anticipated year, which would result in better attendance numbers, Chase believes the stadium couldn’t have had more than 50,000 in attendance… FOR THE SEASON OPENER. Chase also attended last week’s divisional matchup against the Panthers, which had minimal fan attendance.
Never change Falcons fans pic.twitter.com/zPGhWWXdJu
— Roaring Riot (@roaringriot) October 31, 2021
If you look closely, this picture above was taken just over halfway through the first quarter; the lower bowl is bare. So much so that Chase walked down to the 50-yard line and sat in the lower bowl without any resistance, even though his tickets were in the 300s. This is incredibly confusing when you consider what the Falcons are reporting for their attendance numbers.
According to ESPN, the Falcons are averaging 66,516 per home game in attendance, which ranks 18th among the league — ahead of the Saints, Buccaneers, Patriots, 49ers, Bears, Cardinals, Steelers, and Raiders. All of those teams are either playing in a new stadium, a Super Bowl-contender or have historically dedicated fan bases.
The team may be embellishing their attendance totals… again. When NFL organizations announce attendance numbers, they seemingly announce figures other than the actual number of fans attending the game. Typically, it is the number of tickets sold. The Falcons have run into this problem before too, which is even worse.
In 2018, the anticipation for fans was palpable as the Falcons expected to reach the playoffs for the third consecutive season. As the Dan Quinn-led Falcons began to free fall, the fans disappeared. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that average attendance was much lower than the “official” attendance.
Game | Announced | Actual
Sept. 16 vs. Carolina | 72,528 | 64,884
Sept. 23 vs. New Orleans | 74,457 | 69,430
Sept. 30 vs. Cincinnati | 71,985 | 62,455
Oct. 14 vs. Tampa Bay | 72,665 | 61,206
Oct. 22 vs. New York Giants | 72,756 | 67,494
Nov. 18 vs. Dallas | 74,447 | 69,613
Dec. 2 vs. Baltimore | 72,262 | 60,626
Dec. 16 vs. Arizona | 72,084 | 56,470
Actual totals for the 2021 season likely won’t be available until the end of the season, but I would be shocked if the actual numbers even came close to the announced numbers. I say this because of Chase’s first-hand accounts of the turnout at two different games, as well as the TV shots that have shown Mercedes-Benz Stadium bare.
The lack of attendance could be the team’s disappointing last couple of seasons — winning really does cure-all. Still, a more probable cause of the lack of attendance is Arthur Blank’s obsession with Personal Seat Licenses/ridiculous ticket prices.
Mercedez-Benz Stadium is an incredible piece of architecture. There is a massive bird statue in front of the stadium, a 360-degree halo video board, and incredibly affordable concession prices. Still, these PSLs are forcing fans to go through secondary markets, driving up the costs, making it increasingly difficult for everyday fans to attend games. Hopefully, the team starts winning… and soon, because the lack of attending fans on a weekly basis is becoming more apparent.