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Detroit Lions attendance is lowest since the year after winless season

It hasn’t been this bad since 2009.

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are 0-8, and fans have made a pretty strong statement to ownership: We’re not going to pay to see this team right now.

On Sunday—a day in which the Lions were clobbered by the Philadelphia Eagles 44-6—attendance at Ford Field dropped to 47,129. That marked the first time attendance fell below the 50,000 mark in a decade, according to The Detroit News.

Note: This is obviously excluding 2020, when no fans were permitted inside Ford Field, due to the COVID-19 pandemic

For the season, the Lions are averaging just 52,046 paid fans per game, which ranks 31st in the NFL through eight weeks. That number also represents the Lions’ worst attendance average in a season since 2009—the year after the Lions became the first team to go 0-16 in a season.

Of course, there are mitigating factors here. There is almost certainly a COVID impact on NFL attendance. With COVID cases surging again this summer, there is almost certainly some that are staying away from large crowds—especially in Detroit, where the Lions are not requiring proof of vaccination nor the wearing of masks for entry into the stadium. Additionally, in Sunday’s case, the game was played on Halloween.

But attendance numbers have been consistently on the downswing for three seasons now. Since 2018, the Lions have a winning percentage of just .259—the second-worst mark over that time period with only the Jacksonville Jaguars posting fewer wins. As a result, each year attendance has dropped.

Here’s a look at the Lions’ attendance numbers since the 2008 season (data via ESPN).

According to a report from the Sports Business Journal, before the season started, the NFL held a virtual conference call with top executives from each team and not-so-subtly called out five teams—including the Lions—for lackluster ticket sales.

During a presentation from Bobby Gallo, NFL senior vice president of club business development, five logos appeared on the screen: those of the Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and the Washington Football Team.

It was, Gallo explained, a listing of the teams with at least 15,000 unsold tickets on average for the upcoming season. Gallo implored all teams to consider what they could do better in ticket sales and fan development.

Ford Field’s capacity is currently listed at 65,000, Sunday’s game marked the first time this year the Lions’ attendance numbers fell below that 15,000 unsold tickets mark. With the team currently winless, that likely won’t be the last time.

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