My league is better than your league. Sing it. Fury vs. CanPL and what comes next By Steven Sandor Posted on September 10, 2018 2 0 699 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Canadians have had a next-door neighbour’s view of the toxic morass that is the American soccer for the last several years. Leagues suing federations. Leagues fighting with leagues. States suing leagues and teams. The way American soccer is going, the most fitting way to stage the 2026 World Cup is in a series of courtrooms, not pitches. Instead of kicking a ball, we’d decide the Mundial through litigation. Federation suing federation. The final lawyer standing gets the gold trophy. And, damn, I think the Americans might prefer it that way. That toxic culture has spilled over to their supporters. When you follow American soccer on social media — with the name-calling, cheering your own national team not making the World Cup, the joy at seeing teams and leagues fold — you’d be right to wonder if they actually like the sport at all, or simply see it as a perfect, divisive vehicle to have a penis-measuring contest in public. But, over the last week, Canadians are showing that, given the chance, we can be every bit as rash and judgmental as our friends to the south. Last week, the Ottawa Fury announced its decision to leave the Canadian Premier League at the altar, to not be part of the circuit’s opening season. The announcement was made in front of the media. On Monday, the CanPL responded, by making the Fury part of its release on the salary cap, jersey deal (more details to come) and broadcast deal (there’s interest out there) issued through its website. In it, Commissioner David Clanachan has said that the “salary and soccer operations budget” is “north of seven figures.” That is, operations and salaries together. As for the issue with the Fury, he said on the league’s website: “As for a transition to the Canadian Premier League, we were quite willing to adapt in a number of areas, because we recognized the fact that they were an existing team playing in the USL this year, under different circumstances. We were prepared to accommodate them, specifically around details like players, soccer operations and player salaries. We had actually offered to have them operate under the exact same circumstances as they are now. We felt like we presented a series of accommodations on a number of different things in order for Ottawa to feel confident about playing in the Canadian Premier League. We did everything we could to help them feel welcome. Unfortunately, they made a different decision and we were surprised after the accommodations we had proposed, when they notified us last week that they were prepared to continue to operate in the USL.” You can read the rest of the CanPL statement by clicking here, as you don’t really need me rewriting their public statements. Nor should I have to. The 11 has made requests to speak to CanPL officials in the wake of the Fury’s decision. Soccer Warz in Canada The battle has turned CanSoc Twitter and the message boards into, well, turn it off, please. What had been a relatively smooth launch for the CanPL, with seven teams holding their unveiling events, with nothing but positive reactions from the greater soccer community, feels like a long time ago. The Fury’s decision not to join the league, has rocked the foundations of Canadian soccer. Force the Fury into CanPL! Cry some. Let the Fury remain in the USL! Cry others. And they’re not politely disagreeing. They’re at each other’s throats. I’ve had so many conspiracy theories DM’ed to me, I’m pretty sure Fury general manager Julian de Guzman was kidnapped last year and replaced by a Mantrazukazorian in disguise. (Those Mantrazukazorians can be tricky; shape changers.) So what should we do? Move on. That’s what. Remember that when then-Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani announced the vision to start a “Division 1A” league in this country, the pledge was that the five existing Canadian first- and second-division teams at the time — including the MLS sides and the Fury — would be allowed to “co-exist” outside of the new Canadian league. Remember that “1A” was an important codeword for what would later be known as the Canadian Premier League. “1A” signified that entry to the league was an option. The one argument that can be made is that Montagliani made this statement in regards to teams in NASL and MLS, as the Fury was in NASL at the time. So, you could counter that the pledge to “co-exist” didn’t cover the USL. Still, you can’t help but feel that, by forcing the Fury to join the CanPL, well, it wouldn’t feel right. Attract Partners, Not Adversaries But, more importantly, if the Fury don’t want to be in the CanPL, why would the CanPL want them? Would you want to partner with someone in a business who was dragged in, kicking and screaming? And, forcing the Fury to do anything, well, I was around NASL long enough in my career to predict where that will lead. The courtroom. If the Canadian Premier League got involved in litigation before a ball is even kicked, we may as well call it NASL 3.0. As well, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is a business. What’s the moral imperative to have a soccer program? The brass would be well within its rights to simply pull the plug on the Fury if it was forced to abandon USL in 2019. Basically, the warning is this. You can either let it go or escalate the situation, where the collateral damage will hurt Canadian soccer as a whole. That’s not to say the CanPL doesn’t have its own course. It’s no longer morally obligated to hold a spot for the Fury. If someone else from the nation’s capital comes forward, the CanPL can listen. As well, the current owners of the existing seven member CanPL teams are the ones who make the rules. They didn’t have to pay huge fees to join the league because they’re the ones founding the league. But, well, in the future, if OSEG comes back to the table, the existing CanPL owners can say, “well, you’re an expansion team, now, and with that comes expansion fees.” And any money the Fury might save on USL exit fees or whatnot could very well be swallowed up by an entry fee to enter the CanPL. So, basically, if you’re angry about what the Fury has done this past week, remember the most important thing Star Trek has ever taught us: Revenge is a dish best served cold. The time will come down the road when the Fury and CanPL will likely be back at the table. Reputations at Stake Really, the Fury not coming to the CanPL right away isn’t the most troubling part of all this. It’s the talk surrounding the decision that’s been more damaging. For the better part of a week, until Monday’s CanPL response via its website the Fury controlled the narrative. Fury players, as is their right, tweeted their support for the club’s move. Even before the announcement, many Canadian players have asked me about the CanPL cap. Where it’s going to be? They are also concerned about what kinds of training facilities the teams will have. Who will be the trainers and medical staff? As players, of course they’re concerned — the league is already a great unknown in terms of where it’s going to be in terms of level play. Money will no doubt be an issue for them, as it would be for anyone looking for a job. If these players see fellow Canadians showing support for NOT moving to CanPL, it’s that message that’s more troubling.The confidence of the Canadian player pool in the CanPL is eroded. These aren’t the players who will be going to the seven open tryouts, but ones who already have résumés with pro experience. Will a Canadian player in USL, but not playing for the Fury, have his faith in the CanPL broken because of the Fury’s decision and what he’s seeing and hearing from the Fury’s players? What about a player in Europe? Players share agents, some are former teammates, some know each other from various youth and senior national-team camps. When it comes to Canadian soccer players, it’s a vast network. And the broken telephone is most certainly ringing off the hook, right now. To me, that’s a FAR bigger issue than Ottawa simply deciding to not come into the league. To be fair, publicly the OSEG CEO Mark Goudie has said the right things, that Fury will continue to engage with the CanPL, that a move could be in the cards for the future, and that he and his club believes in what the CanPL is doing. But actions speak louder than words.