The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been a bad football team for awhile now.
So bad, in fact, that they are nearing the worst era for any CFL team in league history. This dubious possibility has generated a popular narrative across the country that the Bombers are under a tremendous amount of pressure to win games in 2016.
To ask a question that may seem nonsensical: why?
Much of the pressure surrounding the club in recent years has been primarily about the club’s finances. Without a competitive team, pundits said, fans would stop buying tickets and merchandise; sponsors would allocate their dollars elsewhere; and the 2015 Grey Cup — the success of which was essential to ensuring the organization’s ability to pay its annual $4.5 million stadium loan — would be poorly attended, wreaking havoc on the club’s finances.
Despite recording just 21 wins over the past four seasons, the Bombers’ recent financial report indicated an $11 million profit in 2015, $7.1 million of which came as a result of hosting the Grey Cup. These are eye-popping numbers that have secured the club’s short-term financial success and created a positive step toward sustained, long-term financial stability.
While on-field success would undoubtedly help the Bombers’ bottom line, there is no reason to think the club won’t be in the black again this season if the team continues to lose in 2016.
The vast majority of the Bombers’ 21,000 season ticket holders are locked into their seats through 2017 as part of a Grey Cup ticket promotion. Early-season optimism combined with warm summer weather should see attendance figures approach 30,000 per game as the season opens, a number that would only increase if the team is able to win out of the gate.
The Bombers also scored a major victory with fans on April 13 with the announcement that the team is returning to royal blue uniforms this season. Barring a truly dreadful design from Adidas (though sources have indicated the uniforms should be well-received), royal blue jerseys will be flying off the shelves this season regardless of the quality of the on-field product.
With strong ticket and merchandise sales seemingly assured for 2016, what pressure could there possibly be on the Winnipeg Football Club to win games this upcoming season? Outside of third-year head coach Mike O’Shea — whose leash is said to be longer than most people believe — there are no big names in the Bombers’ front office or coaching staff whose employment is likely to be at risk if the club struggles again this upcoming season.
Bomber fans have supported their club admirably through almost a half-decade of perennial failure and, with a growing sense of optimism paired with a tremendous stadium atmosphere, there is no reason to believe this trend won’t continue into 2016.