Belfast Giants count cost as flag protests keep fans away
Belfast Giants general manager Todd Kelman has revealed that the club has taken a huge financial hit as a knock-on effect of recent protests across Belfast.
Road blocks and violence within the vicinity of the Odyssey Arena, which followed Belfast City Council’s decision to fly the Union Flag from City Hall only on designated days, have had a such negative impact on attendances that Kelman believes they have cost the Giants as much as £20,000.
Two weeks ago the East Tier seats had been installed at the Odyssey in anticipation of bumper crowds for the home games against the Dundee Stars and Coventry Blaze on the weekend of Friday-Saturday January 11-12.
In the end, however, the attendances didn’t justify the additional capacity, as the flag protests hit their peak at that particular time.
Now the former Giants defenceman is urging casual supporters to come back to the Odyssey and play their part in cheering the team towards the Elite League title, starting on Friday night when they welcome Braehead Clan to Belfast.
“Our pre-sales have been normal, but the number of walk-ups has been down drastically over the last few weeks — particularly for the Dundee game on Friday January 11,” said Kelman.
“People who plan to go on nights out, be it to go to a Giants game, to a bar or restaurant, will still go, but it’s the casual fan who decides last minute that we are losing.
“The protests and road closures are giving people a reason not to come out and support us.
“Even if one family stays at home instead of coming to a game, going to the cinema or anything it means people are losing business.”
A crowd of 5,200 watched the Giants defeat to the Sheffield Steelers on the first Saturday of January and that was the second of three attendances in excess of 5,000 over the Christmas and New Year period.
The Dundee game came in the middle of that run, but less than 4,000 turned up at the Odyssey that night.
“I know roughly the number of people who are going to come and buy their tickets on the night for each game,” said Kelman.
“That number was well down wen we played Dundee and it has been down overall over the last month.
“We have lost somewhere from 1,500 to 2,000 ticket sales in that time and at an average of £10 per ticket that’s a lot of money for anyone to lose.”
The Giants clash with Braehead Clan on Friday is their first home game for two weeks.
With children being admitted free to Giants’ games another big crowd is expected as they look to cut Nottingham’s lead at the top of the table to two points.
“We are always working to attract more families to games and we try to keep tickets as reasonably priced as possible,” said Kelman.
“The free kids tickets have worked really well for us.”