The San Francisco 49ers had essentially a sell-out crowd on hand for Thursday Night Football, with the game report saying paid attendance was 70,178. I believe Super Bowl 50 had the largest football crowd in the first 2+ seasons, with an announced 71,088 in attendance.
The 49ers are likely going to announce sellouts for each of their remaining home games this season. The number might change from game-to-game due to things like standing room tickets sold, but it will be essentially a sellout.
Of course, as we saw last night, and as we’ve seen before, a sellout does not mean that the stands are actually full of fans. Numerous people were tweeting and I heard from several folks who pointed to a stadium that was no more than half full. We’ll never know the full number for certain because the 49ers are not going to release the turnstile attendance (we certainly did not when I worked at the A’s!), but we know people are choosing to stay home.
One could make an excuse for Thursday’s game. It was a weekday and people were not willing to deal with rush hour traffic. Of course, if the 49ers were actually playing quality football, I would think a few more people would brave the traffic.
It will get a little more interesting in the coming weeks if Colin Kaepernick gets a chance to start again. He could start next week against Buffalo and look awful, but if he either gets that first start at home, or starts next week and has a solid performance, turnstile could go up considerably for 49ers-Bucs.
At the very least, this shows that fans are not happy with the product the 49ers are putting on the field. It’s been some bad football, with no signs it will improve anytime soon. It was an inevitable byproduct of what has happened to this franchise over the last 2+ seasons.
This does not have a huge financial impact on the franchise in the short term. The Yorks still enjoy healthy profits from tickets and SBLs sold (after rent and stadium payments). The second revenue like food, drink, merchandise, and parking take a hit when half the stadium stays home, but it is secondary for a reason. It is lost revenue, but it is on the lower end of the spectrum.
Long term, it’s hard to say what would happen. I think there will always be revenue opportunities in Silicon Valley and the various other big companies around the Bay Area. But if the front office does not put a quality product on the field, at some point we could see a dip in paid attendance. Again, I don’t think this is something that will happen soon, and NFL teams are revenue machines with virtually no concern for the state of their stadium and fanbase. But, it will be interesting to see what happens if the 49ers front office does not get things on the right track.
Here is a look at the stadium midway through the second quarter, courtesy of Jennifer Chan. It was not in fact “Dress Like a Chair” night at the stadium.