Argos weren’t going to bring in Manziel just to sell tickets

The Toronto Argonauts did not have any interest in trading for Johnny Manziel just to try and sell tickets according to the team’s president.

“No. You know it’s funny I got so many text messages from my American friends. There is a belief in this team and James Franklin and there is a reason Jim Popp brought him here. There is a lot of belief in him. We didn’t go down that path,” Bill Manning told TSN radio in Toronto.

“You always have that question for a player like that? Can I bring him in and what are the reasons I’m doing it for? Within this team, it might have caused more challenges than not. Even if you sold an additional few thousand seats for a game, at the end of the day, I support Jim and Marc in terms of what they want to do with the football team. This wasn’t going to be about marketing or selling tickets.”

Argos general manager Jim Popp echoed the same sentiment.

“I haven’t ever known any one player in the CFL as long as I’ve ever been in it, including Doug Flutie, that sold tickets. He obviously has a lot of media attention, he’s kind of an icon that might bring some people out, but at the end of the day, the whole value of coming to a stadium is the entertainment value of your experience, a competitive football game is one thing that does help,” Popp told TSN radio in Toronto.

“We went out in the off-season we spent a lot of our free agent money on James Franklin who we think will be a real star in the CFL, the most up and coming guy with the experience. In the off-season, there was a lot of things swinging around, but never once did we ever have pressure to bring Johnny Manziel in, if there was pressure it strictly came from a media standpoint of pumping that out there all the time but not internally from an organization.”

Popp does understand the hype around Manziel and feel it’s beneficial for the league.

“It generates talk and it’s fun, it keeps football out there and it keeps Johnny Football going and I wish him the most success that I could because he’s an outstanding, fun player to watch,” Popp said.

“Is he with the right team to have success immediately? Most people who ever come into the CFL – there is the rare Ricky Ray or the Bo Levi Mitchell, Anthony Calvillo – but most it takes several years of experience to understand the game in the CFL and really hit full stride to have the best outcome on the field.”

Manziel won’t be generating any interest for the Argos at the gate except for when the Alouettes comes to Toronto on Oct. 20. The Double Blue have the lowest average attendance number in the league so far in 2018 at 14,323 per home game, but the amount of people has risen from 2017. The struggles to attract fans to watch the Double Blue live have been well documented in recent years.

“What we’re finding now with the Argos – the West side of our stadium is really good, it’s packed and it feels good. What we gotta try to do is how do we get them to come and fill up the East side? But the people that are leaving the Argos games now are enjoying themselves,” Manning said.

“We gotta get the team turned around because that’s the most important. But I feel confident and comfortable that we’re not going to lose fans and if we can get some of our fans from some of our other teams to come out we’re going to grow and as I’ve said all along it’s going to be slowly. But the West side of the stadium is good, it’s a good vibe there.”

Empty stadium shots are featured on TSN broadcasts of the Argos games while jokes are made on social media by viewers and Manning wants to change that.

“I’m literally meeting with TSN about shooting the other way into the West side. Right now the way the camera shoots you see half-empty stands if not more than half empty and shooting the other way they’re all full,” Manning said.

“There is a completely different dynamic when you see the crowd and how into the game they are. It’s something that we want to show on TV.”

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