# Success vs. attendance

This one should be obvious. If a team is winning, what happens to their home attendance? Goes up, right? In general, yes. But how much?

I was having a conversation with someone about attendance at lacrosse games, and he said that attendance had dropped at games in Philadelphia ever since the league started cracking down on hitting and fighting. It certainly hasn’t been eliminated from the game, but many think it’s down from where it used to be. He said that this is a bad thing for the league and this could be seen by looking at the attendance numbers. I pointed out that the fact that Philadelphia has had a playoff team only twice in the last decade may have something to do with declining attendance, so it’s pretty close to impossible to say that the drop in attendance was due entirely (or even partially) to the drop in hitting.

Hitting is something we don’t have accurate stats on, so we can’t really do any kind of analysis on how that correlates with attendance. But we do have won-loss records and attendance numbers, so let’s look at those.

What we’re looking for is how a team’s attendance correlates with that team’s success on the floor. To measure attendance (and factor out the number of games per season), we’ll use the average attendance at home games. To measure success, we’ll use the winning percentage, number of wins divided by number of games played. In this case, we are ignoring playoff games. I then calculated what’s called the correlation coefficient for each team. I won’t describe the math since if you know what it is you don’t need the description, and if you don’t know what it is you likely don’t care. Suffice it to say that a value of 1 means the attendance always goes up as success goes up and drops when the team is less successful. A value of -1 means it’s exactly backwards – attendance goes up as success goes down and vice versa. The closer the number is to 1 or -1, the stronger the effect – a value of 0 means that attendance and success are unrelated.

To avoid small sample sizes, we’ll only look at teams with 10 or more seasons in the NLL. The teams involved are the New York Saints, Baltimore Thunder, Philadelphia Wings, Colorado Mammoth, Calgary Roughnecks, Toronto Rock, Rochester Knighthawks, and Buffalo Bandits.

What this tells us is that the New York Saints attendance numbers were very dependent on their success – as their win-loss records started to decline, their attendance dropped. This effect was similar in Philadelphia, Rochester, and Colorado. The rest of the teams had much smaller coefficients, meaning that their attendance didn’t depend very much on their success on the floor.

Calgary’s value was negative, implying that as Calgary’s numbers go up, their attendance numbers actually go down. But this is a bit misleading – especially since I tweeted about it saying that it was depressing. The actual value is –0.019, which is close enough to zero that it’s fair to say that Calgary’s success on the floor is unrelated to their attendance numbers. The numbers for Toronto and Baltimore are slightly higher but still low enough to imply no correlation, and Buffalo is right at the bottom end of “low correlation”.

The definition of “bandwagon jumpers” or “fairweather fans” would be those who show up to support their team when they’re doing well and abandon the team when they’re not. Would it be unfair to refer to the numbers for the top four as being indicative of this? I’ll leave that determination as an exercise for the reader.