Derby’s Money Problems: Is Roller Derby Entertaining? – Part 1


Special thank to Jim Dier and Brewcity Battlestars Head Coach/WFTDA Official Machete Holiday for that reaction, and I expect that upon reading the title that is the look on most of your faces as well.  But, let us all take a deep breathe and put the pitchforks down for a minute and let me explain myself a little bit.  Can we all just admit that Derby has some problems and needs to find a way to become more financially stable and to grow a fan base that will help support it?  Just how long can the same people keep funding the sport without huge amounts of new blood coming in?  I’m not embarking on this series of blogs (yes there will be more than one addressing this topic) just to enrage people or to make people think that I am just putting Derby down.  I am doing this to simply continue, or begin, this discussion.  As we speak there are many top level teams looking for major funding help.  VRDL spent $33,000 on playoff airfare alone.  Rat City is looking for $45,000 to help funding to keep their home.  There are so many leagues out there with financial issues and discussions need to be open and all ideas should be discussed.  As part of this series I will address many different issues, but for this post I am going to focus exclusively on if derby bouts are entertaining.

I believe that I represent a demographic of huge opportunity for Roller Derby, so let me give you a little more background on myself.  I am a sports fanatic to the extreme.  I will watch pretty much any sport, as long as it is competitive and entertaining.  The NFL is the #1 sport in America for many reasons, but it can’t be ignored that anyone can win on “any given Sunday.”  Yes that is so cliche, but it is so true.  This past weekend saw 6 our of 15 games end with a margin of a touchdown or less, the week before it was 8 of 15.  For non-football fans, that means that all those games were the margin of one play.  Internationally, soccer/futbol is the #1 sport.  It is very different in the scoring, but 1 mistake can immediately turn a 1-0 game into a 1-1 game.  What I am getting at is that I would watch darts on TV if it was competitive, I have actually done this by the way.  There are thousands/millions of people like me who just love competition and will pay good money to see people compete.  Brewcity’s home season ended last year with a Championship Bout that went into OT, it was the most edge of the seat Derby I had ever witnessed and there was no way that a first time Derby viewer didn’t immediately become a fan.  I don’t expect that every time I view a bout, but competitive bouts would go a very long way.

And that brings me to my main point.  From July 1st thru October 12th I have tracked 267 WFTDA bouts from 189 teams.  This issue is a global issue and I believe we need to have this discussion with all WFTDA teams in mind, not just D1 or D2 or D3, but all of WFTDA.  That is large enough of a sample size that I firmly believe that the data and chart I’m about to show you is very credible.  Here is percentage breakdown of the final score margin of those bouts.

Points Margin Victory

What I have done is look at the final points margin and broken it into 6 categories that I felt represented good spreads in the bouts.  Most of us will agree that bouts with a spread under 50 are entertaining, I think we can all agree that bouts in which the final margin of victory is over 100 is usually not the most exciting bout.  Again, I am viewing this as a fan of sport.  Fans are the people who pay money to watch and be entertained.  To this point in the season over 45% of all WFTDA bouts have finished with margins of greater than 100, over 1 in 4 total bouts ended with margins over 150.  Are casual fans going to keep coming back and paying money for bouts in which the final margin was that high?  In all likelihood many of those bouts were over at halftime, how many of those fans just leave and never come back?

This is just the start of the discussion, over the next few weeks I will bring forth ideas that I believe could help raise the entertainment/excitement of Derby bouts.  Next up in this series I am going to look to see if a 60 minute bout is really necessary.  I will as always focus on the math behind my analysis, but I will also use my degree in Fitness Management to discuss the effects of a 60 minute bout.  Thank you all for your support and I hope this post just makes you think, not be mad.  I’m not bashing Derby or suggesting I have all the answers, my ultimate goal is to just help keep the conversation going.  Derby is not the 16 teams competing in Nashville, or the 60 teams that took part in the WFTDA playoffs, heck Derby is not even just WFTDA.  For all that Derby is, admitting there are problems and being open to having discussions around those problems is the only way to continually move forward as a sport.


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