The Edmonton Elks sorry hometown record on the field has been matched by their sorry hometown crowds at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Elks average announced PAID attendance has averaged north of 26 thousand fans per game this season.
However, a quick TSN camera shot of the entire stadium for many of their home games has shown a cavernous park with a vast majority of empty seats, fetching estimates from those in attendance, such as Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun, of as low as fewer than eight thousand people.
Never was that more evident than in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 19-17 win in Edmonton on Friday night.
It has to be a demoralizing site for the players and coaches to show up and see that every week, but the Riders aren’t feeling any sympathy for Edmonton on this one.
“Nah, I don’t feel sorry.” said Rider receiver and former Edmonton standout Duke Williams.
“That ain’t my responsibility to feel sorry. That’s their team and they’re playing how they’re playing. As players, they’re supposed to come together and get it right.”
“It’s their hometown, so if they’ve got six fans in the stadium, that’s their problem. I know when they come to our house next week, it’s going to be a whole different environment. I can’t wait to play in front of Rider nation.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Rider quarterback Cody Fajardo.
“I’m extremely blessed about our Rider fans.” Fajardo said.
“Sometimes when things aren’t going great and the (Rider fans are) on me, it’s a good problem to have because at least you have fans (that) are passionate. That’s something I really enjoy and something that I really look forward to.”
“To tell you the truth, when you win football games I think you put butts in the seats. Edmonton, unfortunately, hasn’t won very many games so it’s hard for the fans to come to the games.”
Empty seats at games across the league has become more and more of a talking point among CFL fans on social media, including at Riders’ games.
Both Saskatchewan and Edmonton have routinely played in front of crowds of more than 30 thousand prior to this season. Fajardo thinks the smaller crowds in both cities can be blamed, at least in part, on the coronavirus world we’re living in.
“It’s weird. Coming off a pandemic, you would think that more people would want to get out and go to a game because they missed it for a whole year,” Fajardo said.
“But, there’s still the pandemic going on. There’s still COVID going on, so I get it. A lot of people don’t want to put themselves in jeopardy or put their family or put their loved ones in jeopardy.”
“I’m just thankful we’re able to play football games in front of people.”
The small gathering of Elks’ family and friends actually made it easier for Cody to spot the Saskatchewan fans.
“There were a lot of Rider fans out there. It was extremely loud for us when we scored our touchdown and we moved the ball and had some big plays,” he pointed out.
“That’s something I’ve grown accustomed to on away trips, knowing that the Rider nation is always going to show up for us and I love ‘em to death, because I know that they’re very passionate about everything we do and it’s exciting to know that we have very passionate fans.”
That used to be the case in Edmonton, too, and still might be.
But judging by the crowds they’ve had in 2021, that passionate Elks fan base is trending toward some shaky ground.