Ex-Riders fans: Where Are You?

Column: The Sports Beat

By Travis Brine

Here’s a question for all Ottawa football fans: Where have you all disappeared to?

It’s been one year now since the era of the Ottawa Rough Riders collapsed and local football fans have now faded away. Last year at this time, fans in Ottawa came out of the closet proclaiming their love for the Riders and stressing the team’s importance to the city.

Remember the “Save the Riders” ticket drives and rallies? It seemed people felt the city couldn’t survive without the Riders.

Well, believe it or not, life after the Riders has continued along merrily. The pleas to keep CFL football in Ottawa seem to be forgotten. And just like it was when the Riders were playing in a nearly empty Frank Clair Stadium, die-hard football fans in the city are hard to find.

Local university and junior football teams were hoping the loss of the Riders would be their teams’ gain. The Ottawa Redskins, a junior football team, even changed their name to the Junior Rough Riders and moved their games into Frank Clair Stadium in an attempt to fill the football void for Riders fans.
But these teams have discovered that even without the competition of the Riders, Ottawa is a tough football market.

Attendance for Ottawa’s junior football teams, such as the Sooners and the Junior Rough Riders, has been low as usual. When the two rivals clashed at Frank Clair Stadium in September less than 300 were there to watch.

The university football teams aren’t doing much better. Carleton averaged only 830 fans this season (not including the Panda game) and the Ottawa Gee Gees are averaging only slightly more, despite being one of the top teams in the country.

“It (football attendances) doesn’t show me that this city is football hungry,” says Carleton’s sports marketing director Dave Kent, “and it doesn’t prove that the Riders should be back.”

If all those Riders fans loved football so much, where are they now? It seems after their failed attempt to save the Riders, Ottawa football fans have gone back into the woods.

Perhaps the Riders were not as important to this city as many had thought. Very few are crying for the return of the Riders and the only effect the loss has had on the city is leaving it with a useless stadium on Bank Street.

Obla dee, obla da, for Riders fans life has gone on.