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The numbers don’t lie. Attendance at Fed Ex Field plummeted in 2021. This season more than any other, fans chose to express their discontent by not supporting the product. Have fans of the Washington Football Team finally had enough of the lawsuits, the distractions, the name debacle, the botched retirements, and the constant false promises of something better?

This year’s attendance numbers would seem to indicate so. However, despite the steep drop-off this season, these numbers are also the result of a decade-plus downward trend.

Watch a game on television the last few seasons and the stadium is not even close to full. Furthermore, it’s often decorated with opposing team colors as well.

Thanks to Covid, nobody attended NFL games in Washington in 2020.

So were WFT fans chomping at the bit to get back to Fed Ex Field in 2021?

Never in the history of the stadium, has attendance been so low.

2021 Numbers Down 100,000-Plus

Only 422,009 people attended games at Fed Ex this year. That was the second lowest total in the entire NFL, behind only Detroit (412,177). The Lions only won two games all year and were the NFL’s second worst team.

Third lowest is the Chicago Bears, but Soldier Field is actually the smallest venue in the NFL and only holds 61,500. The Bears sold 98.9% of their tickets.

If you look at percent of capacity, Washington is lower than every team in the NFL. Much lower.

Washington is the only team in the league that did not sell 75% of their tickets.

They didn’t even sell 70%. In fact, they came in at just a hair under 65% (64.8%).

For some reference, season attendance was 523,906 in 2019 – a drop of 101,897 fans this year. That’s a sizeable 20% drop.

On top of that, it means that the WFT’s per game average for 2021 was just 52,751. That was also second worst in the NFL.

Somehow FedEx Field’s stadium capacity has changed to 67,717 according to a recent Washington Post article. That’s interesting given that it had always been listed at 82,000 until then.

ESPN has used, and is still using 82,000 for all their calculations on their league attendance page.

Either way, with a seating capacity at Fed Ex Field that is currently somewhere between 62,751 and 82,000, there are a lot of empty seats each week.

Whatever the actual number is, the seemingly permanent barren upper decks look terrible on television. For the team, and for the league.

 

RFK Hosted More Fans In 1996

For further reference sake, more people went to Washington’s former stadium the last year it was open.

That’s right, despite RFK Stadium having a capacity of 56,454, more people went to RFK in 1996, than to Fed Ex in 2021.

That’s a capacity difference of more than 25,000.

RFK vs Fed Ex attendance

 

Remember Blackouts?

It’s easy to forget about blackouts, as the NFL haven’t had them since 2015.

Starting back in 1973, a game would not be televised in the home market, if it was not sold out. In 2012, restrictions were relaxed, and games were only blacked out if they sold less than 85% of the stadium’s tickets.

Even with the relaxed restrictions, every one of Washington’s 2021 games would have been blacked out.

Even the one they tried to get you to pay $100 for standing room only seats for.

Prior to the NFL shutting down blackouts in 2015, Washington had not been blacked out since 1968. Back then they blacked out games in the home city regardless of numbers, and it had nothing to do with attendance.

Steady Decline

While the differences between 2019 numbers and 2021 numbers are quite staggering, it really has been a “work in progress” to get to this juncture.

If you go back five seasons to 2016, Fed Ex Field saw 200,000 more people in eight games, than it did in 2021. That year, season attendance was 626,432. That’s 25,000 people more per game than this year.

Go back about ten more years, and you have a time when there were almost 300,000 more people at Fed Ex in a single season. In 2005, Washington’s season attendance at Fed Ex Field maxed out at a fantastic 716,999 people.

That’s 295,000 more people than went to games this past season.

That works out to 36,874 people more PER GAME.

The organization has done a decent job of masking it.

They have been playing with stadium capacity for most of the last two decades.

Musical Chair Stadium Capacity

The original stadium capacity of Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was 80,116.

After taking over in 1999, and re-naming the place Fed Ex Field, Daniel Snyder also increased the stadium capacity. Three different times in fact.

In 2000, he added around 4000 seats. They were billed as high-end, premium seats.

In 2001, he added hundreds more end zone seats.

In 2004 when Joe Gibbs returned, 5000 more seats were added.

All tolled, Dan Snyder had increased capacity to 91,185 by 2004.

That allowed Washington to lead the league in attendance. FedEx Field was the league’s biggest venue from 2005-2010.

But if you look at the graph, once Gibbs left in 2010, the steady decline began. Washington never got back over 700,000 fans in a season, despite doing so EVERY year that Gibbs was around

Due to the decline, Mr. Snyder has been ever-decreasing the stadium capacity. He did so on three different occasions – in 2010, 2011, and in 2015. In each instance it was spun as an improvement, but was it really to try and help mask the ever-diminishing attendance?

The numbers have fallen so far now, that there is no way to hide it.

Well, except to build a new, much smaller stadium and pretend that you did it on purpose. Tell everyone that entertainment has changed and that this is what everyone wants.

When really it’s because you just can’t put enough asses in seats any more.

How many people had to be alienated for that to happen?

Waiting List Eviscerated

Surely most people remember how much the organization used to boast about the Season Ticket Waiting List. The team were bragging that there were over 200,000 names on that list as recently as 2010. Not just bragging, they used it in marketing products.

Where are they now? There are 30,000 empty seats and there isn’t anybody waiting on a season ticket. Not a single soul.

The sad thing is, there really was such a thing before the waiting list was turned into a marketing gimmick by the current regime.

It was said to be somewhere in the vicinity of 90,000 strong.

Yes, there was a time not that long ago where it was near-impossible to get Washington tickets.

Falling Apart

On top of the product on the field not being all that good, neither is the actual stadium and the experience itself.

It’s 25 years old and would seem to perhaps have had little in the way of infrastructure maintenance. It’s falling apart at the seams.

Pipes are bursting and spewing sewage on to fans. Literally and proberbially.

Parts of the structure are collapsing, and fans are falling onto players as they exit the field.

The only time anybody talks about Fed Ex Field is to talk about how lousy it is.

One can’t help but marvel at how the state of the stadium is such a perfect metaphor for the franchise’s faithful fans themselves.

Both are beat up and broken down.

 

 

 

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