Elks Board Chairman Explains Fanbase’s ‘Former White Male’ Categorization

“Our team very much appreciates our existing fanbase who have supported us through difficult times – and that includes all members of that fanbase who are old whites. So we never intended to criticize our fanbase’

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Even an apology to their fans for the bad season of the season somehow turned into another apology to the fans. It’s been that kind of year for the Edmonton Elks.

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After finishing dead last with a 3-11 record in a season meant to usher in the new era of rebranding in a big way, the club suffered further embarrassment when a segment surfaced during the chairman’s press conference of the board of directors Ian Murray after the dismissal of chairman Chris. Presson, general manager Brock Sunderland and head coach Jaime Elizondo.

In it, Murray dropped a verbal bombshell by speaking in broad strokes about the kind of people who make up the majority of the club’s fan base.

The one that has since exploded in his face.

“Our demography is brutal. They’re old, they’re disproportionately male and white, even though that’s not representative of our community,” Murray said Monday.

Or, at least, that’s the part of what he said that was included in the hit clip that made its rounds in letters to the editor and on social media platforms over the week. last.

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For some segments of said fanbase, it was another slap in the face from a team that went ahead and changed what, in their minds, was a perfectly beautiful name in the first place.

To others, both inside and outside this base, it seemed roundabout, mundane and unnecessary.

This led to a formal apology issued by the club on Thursday, in which Murray said: “While I may not have eloquently captured my feelings on the spot, my comments were in no way intended to offend our longtime and loyal fans, who have supported this organization through thick and thin and have been the foundation of our success for over 70 years.

On Friday, Murray took the opportunity to further explain things.

“I think I have to provide some context on this,” Murray said in a phone interview with Postmedia. “First of all, I would like to point out that I like old white people, and I am one of them. And also a lot of my friends, but not all of them, are also old white people. So I am unlikely to intentionally criticize old white people.

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“The second point, however, is that our team very much appreciates our existing fanbase who have supported us through difficult times – and that includes all members of that fanbase who are old whites. So we never intended to criticize our fan base.

Certainly not after a season that has seen the weakest crowd since Commonwealth Stadium opened in July 1978. That’s pretty much the last thing they want.

“What I was trying to say in that quote where TV cut me off is that not only do we need to address the concerns of our existing fans, which is our top priority, but we also need to expand our fanbase,” Murray said. “We need to have more young fans in attendance and we need to get the fan base so it’s more representative of our larger population and more representative of our community.”

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If that wasn’t obvious before, it was certainly earlier this month when the Commonwealth was nearly packed for two FIFA World Cup qualifiers by the Canadian men’s soccer team.

“I was in the second game and it was quite entertaining,” Murray said of a 2-1 win over Mexico in front of 44,212 fans, after beating Costa Rica 1-0 with over 48,000 fans .

The largest crowd reported by the Elks this year was 33,493 for the Labor Day rematch, with an average of 26,210 tickets sold for each of their seven home games. Realistically, they would have been lucky to get close to half that number in the stands at once.

“And that tells us it’s possible to get people out in bad weather, so we have a challenge ahead of us to improve our matchday experience and our product on the pitch so that everyone wants to get out.”

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Football faces an uphill battle when it comes to both its equipment needs and the complexity of its rules and strategy.

“We need to expand the fanbase, we need to get into these other ethnic communities and it will take more work for us because they need to understand the rules before they get interested,” Murray said. “So the only way to get them there is to do things like the flag football program in schools. If we can interest them and understand the rules, then we can compete with football.

And all the while, they have to keep tabs on the more traditional fan base that has gotten them this far.

“We can’t do things that are going to upset our fan base more than we did with some things that happened last year,” Murray said. “And it’s important that they realize that we’re going to take all of these steps, where we’re going to put all of this information together and be able to roll out a much stronger marketing program, dealing with customer complaints, getting suggestions for the game – one day experience.

“And all because we know our fan base has become irritated with us, so we have to be very proactive in responding to that.”

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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