Belan sets cautious path towards CanPL By Rob Notenboom Posted on April 1, 2019 2 0 673 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The path to men’s professional soccer in Saskatchewan appears to be set. Late last week, in events in Saskatoon and Regina, Joe Belan announced a project coming to Saskatchewan — the SK Summer Soccer Series. The Series will consist of a number of soccer matches involving a team of top Saskatchewan players, the SK Selects, and will feature a variety of opponents from outside the province. The first game in the series will see reigning PDL champs Foothills FC ,visit Saskatoon’s SMF. Field May 4. As Belan explains, the project is more than just a series of games. “We are using this as a pilot test to understand the market here in Saskatchewan for pro soccer. We view this as a stepping stone if it’s successful to ultimately bringing professional soccer to Saskatchewan.” The new approach from Belan is in contrast to appearances from a year ago, when it looked as though Saskatchewan might join the Canadian Premier League for its inaugural season. With the CanPL season kicking off on April 27 in Hamilton, Belan credits this more cautious approach to what he had learned about the situation and what he felt necessary to know and understand before moving forward. “We were part of the initial discussions with other teams across the league about being part of the inaugural season. But, when we looked at it around this time last year and recognizing the complexity of putting together the whole Canadian Premier League, it is a very challenging and complex project. But we felt that we were not adequately prepared to be part of the inaugural season. We were not as well endowed from a stadium infrastructure standpoint or organization and we needed more time to prepare. And that’s why we have taken a little bit of a detour and figured that this SK Summer Soccer Series will give us a good platform from which to build an organization and ultimately work on some of these other aspects to be properly prepared when we bring pro soccer here that we’re coming out really strong out of the gates.” In a sense the SK Summer Soccer Series is much more than just a few games for people to go and watch. Belan has assembled an organization consisting of people in the soccer community, provincial business leaders and fans. The games will give them information of how to connect to their potential market and how that market might respond. Meetings held on Thursday and Friday allowed the group to connect with various members of the business community. And a number of sponsors have already been secured for the Series including May 4 game day sponsor BMO and Saskatchewan homebuilder Homes By Dream. But Belan also points to how critical building personal connections will be in what would be CanPL’s smallest market. “We really think that that’s going to ensure the long-term viability and success of the organization … building those links into the community and having a personal connection with all of the supporters. What I would ideally like to do is be in a position where the ownership group and the management know almost every single person that goes into that stadium. I think our message has been very well received by people and now it’s really just getting out and spreading that message and building those personal connections with people.” The response to the games in this series will eventually determine whether Belan and his team will continue down the path to bringing pro soccer to Saskatchewan. Belan simplifies the possibilities into three potential outcomes. There could be no interest or there could be such overwhelming interest that it would seem like supporters are “demanding a pro soccer team.” The third and more likely outcome is somewhere in between , where there are “some positive indicators but also some things we need to do differently” and, in this case, the learning process would continue.