Empty bleachers

It has been a strong year so far for Queen’s interuniversity sports teams. The football team improved to 3-0 on Saturday with a 41-7 demolition of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks; the men’s rugby team has beaten West Point and the University of Ulster at Coleraine in international exhibition matches and clobbered the University of Toronto 86-3 in their regular-season opener last week. The women’s rugby team and both the men’s and women’s soccer teams have also put up some good results.

However, these teams have a common denominator beyond their success—their lack of support from the student body. There are students who regularly cheer on the teams and they’re both knowledgeable and committed but their numbers are small. Both soccer teams regularly play in front of crowds of 50 to 100 people, many of whom are relatives. Women’s rugby has been drawing similar numbers. The men’s rugby team receives considerable fan support, but there’s still barely any buzz about their success on campus. Even the football team, traditionally one of the biggest draws on campus, has seen poor student support this year. They cracked the top five in the national rankings for the first time since 2003 last week, but you wouldn’t have known it from the 250 or so students who bothered to turn out to see Queen’s beat Laurier for the first time in five years. Overall, 1,455 fewer people attended this game than Laurier’s 23-4 win over Queen’s last year.

Those 250 students were an improvement, though, as they at least stayed for the whole game. At the season-opening football game on Sept. 1, several thousand frosh and their leaders showed up, but the student seats were almost empty by halftime. Running back Mike Giffin told the Journal last week the lack of support shown during the opener was demoralizing for the team. “It’s pretty disappointing as an athlete to have your fans leave halfway through a game,” he said.

It’s not like these games are of poor quality. Queen’s Department of Athletics and Recreation has done a commendable job of improving the game experience and, at football at least, there are countless amenities, including concessions, the VIP Zone where you can buy food and alcohol as well as well-choreographed sideline entertainment from the Queen’s Bands and the competitive cheerleaders. The on-field product is also very impressive; there are more than a hundred players in the CFL who came up through CIS football, OUA rugby has produced players for the Canadian national team and several professional soccer players got their start in the CIS.

These are terrific athletes competing for their schools and they could use a boost from some enthusiastic student fans. Admission to all regular-season games is covered in Queen’s students’ athletics fee, so if you’re a sports fan, there’s no reason to pass up Queen’s games. When the Gaels win, do you really want to have missed it?

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