Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Petrone leaves FC Edmonton front office: Will become point man for Calgary NASL bid

Petrone leaves FC Edmonton front office: Will become point man for Calgary NASL bid


FC Edmonton director of soccer Joe Petrone has resigned his position from the club, but he isn’t leaving the NASL behind.

Petrone will now dedicate himself to bringing an NASL expansion franchise to Calgary.

Petrone has confirmed he has been in contact with potential investors in a new Calgary franchise, and will be the point man on an effort to bring a Battle of Alberta to the NASL. What Petrone will be doing is similar to what executive Peter Wilt was doing in Indianapolis, acting as a point man for a potential expansion market, as investors work in the background.

“Edmonton needs a franchise in Calgary,” said Petrone. “And Canada needs more teams. Calgary is obviously a market that the league wants to be in. You have cities like Saskatoon, Ottawa is coming into the league, and Hamilton is another market, too. But we have to remember the rule that 75 per cent of the teams have to come from the U.S. mainland. So, when the league (NASL) hopefully gets to 18 teams by 2016 or 2017, there might be room for Calgary and one other Canadian team. But there is lots of room for NASL to grow. We don’t have the same restriction on teams from FIFA that MLS has. MLS is more interred to that. I think in NASL we can go to 25 or 30 teams. In the height of the old NASL (Petrone managed the old Drillers franchise) we had 30 teams.”

(There were more than 30 cities involved in the old NASL, but the league maxed out in 1978-79 with 24 teams per season)

Joe Petrone
Joe Petrone

And Petrone believes McMahon Stadium, which holds 35,000 for football, can serve as a temporary home for a new soccer franchise.

Calgary is Canada’s fourth-largest city, but has the highest disposable income per resident of any city in Canada. And that’s a major measure for those who invest in sports. In 2010, according to Statistics Canada, Calgary was the only city in Canada where the average household income was higher than $90,000 per year. (Edmonton came in second at around $89,000). Basically, higher spending power is a massive economic indicator — a city where 500,000 have household incomes of $90,000 is a much better place to plunk a sports team than a city of 2 million with an average household income of $50,000. Only sportswriters get hung up on population sizes as “large market” and “small market.” Investors, sponsors and economists don’t.

The question with Calgary has never been about economics. In fact, it’s easy to argue that, based on simple economics, it’s a better investment to put a soccer franchise in Calgary than Vancouver, where high real-estate prices cripple disposable income numbers, or Montreal, where personal earning power isn’t nearly as strong as you’d find in Alberta. But, the question has always been about Calgary’s soccer culture: If it’s strong enough to support pro soccer. Calgary flirted with a USL franchise in the early 2000s, and I remember attending games at McMahon with less than 1,000 in attendance.

Petrone said he wanted to wait until the FCE roster was complete before making his resignation official.

“I have been here for three and a half years, and I believe we have one of the best lined-up organizations in the league, now. We have built up the Reserve program, we have taken great strides, and I believe the team has the talent to finish top-two in the league.

“I wanted to wait until the last player came in on Saturday (Robert Garrett, on loan from Linfield FC). Now the roster is complete for the season. I have completed my work, and I can step down.”

Petrone will still live in Edmonton and commute between the two cities.

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  1. thomas

    April 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Wow, what a lot of immature anger from know-nothing commenters!

    Team plays at a ground with 1,300 capacity, and averages 1,492 in regular season attendance. Obviously everyone associated with the club is failing, obviously Edmonton hates soccer!

    That doesn’t mean the club isn’t losing money, but to make money it’s essential to have solid league infrastructure with enough teams to make games competitive. In the meantime owners across the league will have to absorb losses until someone goes out to build new clubs in new cities. So it doesn’t matter how big any losses are, it depends the scale of losses owners can and are willing to absorb to reach that point.

    It says something about the culture of Canadian soccer fans that so many wish for failure and aren’t prepared to work for success.

    Petrone’s obviously destroying something, but perhaps not what his detractors say…

  2. John Anderson

    April 19, 2013 at 2:15 am

    Isn’t it selfless and honourable to give up his job as technical director. Money isn’t a issue for Petrone as he has more than enough, is passionate about futbol. If Calgary is looking to develop a bid then he’s right man for the job with his understanding of the NASL. Kinda discouraging to read that no investors from Winnipeg have stepped up. Not sure what its said about the viability of WSA Winnipeg going up a level from pdl to nasl

  3. left back

    April 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    tartan lad

    fair enough. You have some valid points. Joe is not the only reason FCE is on shaky ground.

    My point is simple. He is responsible for player and coach recruitment. He signed Sinkgraven, Dwight Loew, Van Leerdam, Rein Baart to huge contracts. More than 90% of players in MLS soccer don’t make what those players and coaches all made while here. ($100,000+ in salary / season)

    Do you think people in Edmonton come out to watch Yashir Pinto? or Van Leerdam? No. They don’t. The average Edmontonian has no clue who they are. And after they had a nightmare here for EFC not a lot of people will ever remember them. Hence my comment on local.

    Joe also was behind a preseason trip to Florida for 10 days which cost the team a ton of money. He is the technical director and decides how the team will get ready for the year. 20 players and 10 days, you do the math on flights, hotels, food, training facilities etc. Another $50 000 at least.

    My estimation is he wasted over half a million dollars on contracts and trips that never got FCE anything to show for it except an owner that wants out.

    He is not the only reason the team is in trouble, but he played a big part.

    He doesn’t understand the market in Edmonton.

    No one is hiding behind anything.

  4. TartanLad

    April 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    $1000 to anyone who can tell me which professional club games they would’ve seen in this city in the last 20-30 years if it wasn’t for Joe? Anyone…no? That’s what I thought. Petrone has clearly made his mistakes and a whole lot of enemies but he is the only one (in 30 years!!!!) with the balls to continuously try to make soccer a go in this city.

    Lets not forget that we are in Edmonton and have geniuses like “Left Back” who say Edmontonians want to watch local players. Left Back, go look at the roster in the first year. Probably half the roster was from Alberta. I used to be able to count how many people showed up up games.

    While I can write an essay on all the bad things about Petrone just like you guys, I rather not join the old “Petrone is the reason soccer doesn’t work in Edmonton” and be a bit more positive and realistic. Was Petrone the reason the team did 0 marketing in the last 16 months? Was Petrone the reason the stands never went up last season? Was Petrone the reason there was no liquor license last year? The list goes on and on. But because Joe is local and been around for all these years, people just gang up on him and bash him anonymously on forums like cowards because its the easy thing to do.

    The point I’m trying to make…Grow up and come up with something better than Joe Petrone ruins soccer in Edmonton. The problems go a lot deeper.

  5. AndreTFCfan

    April 18, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I’d love to see a team in Calgary. This is the first time I have heard much at all about FCE’s finances or struggles… but then again I am a TFC fan, so most of my soccer news is MLS. I think that the more Canadian teams we can get, the better… it would also make for a bigger, better, Voyageurs Cup. Good luck FCE, hang in there!

  6. left back

    April 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks FCE supporter 4 life….

    Great call… how long does the franchise have left???

    I have to predict that this is the final year for FC Edmonton. After all the overspending and money lost, this year will be the final year for the club. Another defunct team to be embarrassed about.

    It doesn’t matter how many wins and losses. Edmonton people want to see local products. That will put people in the seats. Something Joe and now Colin Miller don’t understand. Cutting Paul Hamilton, an Alberta kid plus league all star, is an early indication where Colin is at.

    Absolute joke. When things like that happen, who cares if the club goes under. Good bye FCE, and good luck in your final year. Let the embarrassment end.

  7. Liam Gavin

    April 18, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t know much about soccer in Canada, but if it’s true that 75% of NASL teams have to come from mainland USA, this move is a way off. After the Islanders, FCE and Ottawa, Calgary would have to be the 16th team to make the numbers fit.

  8. FCE supporter 4 life

    April 18, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Well done left back… at least you have the ***** to call a spade a spade.

    He murdered pro soccer in Edmonton. The unfortunate owners he found to buy into his new projects… they would give him a big bank roll and then he would go out and find these ‘has been’ players and pay them more than any other team in the league… 18 months later… the team folds and the owner is broke and left holding the bag. Old Joe did this with the Indoor Drillers, Aviators, FC Edmonton (first time around) and is really close to sinking this team as well.

    The money he wasted so far is laughable… pre seasons in Florida for 10 days… signing overseas Dutch players and coaches that make more than 90% of players in MLS…. the list goes on… i am so glad the Fath Group clued in and pulled the pin on all the over spending…. and now on him.

    The only question left???? How long will the Fath Group hang in? I think Old Joe has already killed the franchise and the pocket books of the owners and it is just a matter of time now…

    Facility or not… when you overspend like FCE has done over the last 2 years…. the owners have to be looking for the door to stop the bleeding….

    His legacy will be that he killed pro soccer in Edmonton. Nothing more.

    On the bright side…. there are a lot of ex pro players that will thank him for the big $10 000 / month pay check for playing division 2 soccer in Canada.

    Joe… you didn’t move on after completing the roster… they showed you the door…. hopefully in time to save the team…

  9. Tomas

    April 17, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    A Calgary NASL team would be great, D3 USL Pro as Steven pointed out is not sanctioned in Canada and would be harder to get support for as its a level lower than NASL and is basically going to become MLS’s farm team/minor league in the USA. D2 NASL is the best option.

    Calgary NASL investors would be wise to wait for(and help push for or build) a 5-10K stadium and not start even temporarily in McMahon Stadium, its simply too big. There is a group in Calgary pushing for a 10,000 seat fieldhouse that could suit an NASL team if done right :


  10. left back

    April 17, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Joe… finally shown the door is right.

    He has been ruining soccer in Edmonton for 25+ years and finally they got rid of him.

    Joe always went for the home run. What a disaster. He thought his Edmonton teams would get 10,000 fans, signed a lot of players to massive contracts, lost tonnes of money for the owners which would sink the team. No wonder Edmonton soccer at the pro level has been a joke for so long. The glory days of the old NASL are 30 years in the past… hopefully he is in the past as well.

    Remember that goalie (who played for the Drill and will remain nameless) back in the day who made a goalie shirt saying on the front “Joe Petrone – ruining soccer in Edmonton for 20 years”…. well… you couldn’t have been more right…

    Arrivederci mi amico.

  11. Seathanaich

    April 17, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Calgary shouldn’t be focussed only on the NASL, given that it does have a cap on the number of non-US teams it can contain. The USL Pro league has no such cap, and is therefore also an option. Obviously being in a league with an Edmonton team in it is a big priority, but not the only one – Canada needs pro clubs in Edm, Cgy, and Ott, no matter which league they are in.

    An NASL team in Calgary is what Edmonton needs, given how their attendances are too low to keep the club viable for much longer. In contrast, teams in Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and other cities are impressively getting their attendances up into the 4 or 5,000 range, where D2 soccer becomes financially viable.

    Claiming that a pro soccer team in Calgary is a better investment than in Vancouver or Montreal is ridiculous. Vancouver is more of a soccer market and more of a soccer-playing city than Calgary per capita AND it has twice the population. The Montreal area has three or more times the population of Calgary, with at least an equivalent per capita interest in pro soccer. A larger number of people in both Van and Mtl will watch televised games, buy merchandise, etc than in Calgary, even if they don’t buy season tickets, making a larger population of fans just as important as a core group of season ticket holders. Edm, Cgy, and Ott are NEVER getting an MLS team, so people in those cities need to understand and accept that it’s D2 or nothing in those cities.

    What is missing in Edm, Cgy, and Ott is a proper facility. Ingrid is correct – McMahon Stadium would be a disaster, just like the new CFL stadium is going to be for the Ottawa Fury. What Edmonton, Calgary, and Ottawa all need are new 5,000 seat stadia planned to be expandable to 10,000 seats. Given the competition for people’s time and money, people will support minor-league sports if they are played in modern facilities. They will not pay to sit in concrete barns from the 1950s, nor will they come out to D2 soccer played in CFL size stadia. MLS evolved out of NFL stadiums, and the teams still stuck in them (New England and DC) are stagnant (as opposed to teams like Kansas City). D2 soccer in Canada won’t work in CFL stadia for the same reason – even a respectable and viable crowd of 5,000 looks like a poor showing in places like McMahon. In terms of facilities, prospective Canadian pro soccer owners in Edm, Cgy, and Ott need to look at what places like Charlotte, South Carolina have done, and San Antonio is currently doing. Thinking that old, makeshift municipal baseball or gridiron parks is a long-term solution in building viable pro soccer teams is delusional.

    • Steven Sandor

      April 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      It would take a major policy swing from the CSA to get Calgary into USL-Pro. CSA has vowed not to sanction Canadian teams in USL-Pro. While it doesn’t make a USL-Pro team in Calgary impossible, I don’t know how interested fans would be in supporting a team that can’t play in the Voyageurs’ Cup.

      As well, I never wrote that Calgary is a better soccer market than Vancouver or Montreal. I wrote that on a market based on pure economics, Calgary is a better market than the two other cities. In the following paragraph I discussed the soccer disclaimer.

      • Seathanaich

        April 18, 2013 at 6:50 pm

        Claiming that the “economic” and “soccer culture” elements of the discussion are separate is false. They aren’t. They’re one and the same, for the same reason that the NHL can be profitable in Winnipeg (pop 750,000) but not in Atlanta (pop 5,000,000). That’s a non-existent distinction in a discussion about the relative viability of pro soccer in these three cities. It’s not “easy to argue based on economics” that a pro (read MLS) team would be better in Calgary than either Vancouver or Montreal – it’s an impossible argument to make. If there were any such argument that this is the case, then intelligent businessmen would have already done so, and Calgary, not Vancouver or Montreal, would have been Canada’s second MLS team.

        The CSA is useless and/or powerless, and has done nothing for the pro game in Canada. I once hoped for a (re-born) Canadian league. Then I hoped for a Canadian D2 league. Now I feel that the CSA should just stay out of the way if all they’re going to do is block Canadians from participating in US leagues, which are the only leagues that it appears will ever exist. They don’t have either the finances or the will to do anything other than subsidise the wages of our national team members in a US women’s pro league.

  12. Sergio

    April 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I believe this is just sugar coating. FC Edmonton came up with this story to help an Old Soccer Man save face. My guess is he was fired. He is stuck in the past on how to operate things and has never been part of a successful soccer organization. Go quietly into the night Joe and hopefully soccer finds a way to survive in this city…… #fingerscrossed

  13. Mike

    April 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I’m definitely not buying it that he is leaving FCE thinking the job is done. IMO the job is far from complete and perhaps it signals that people are jumping a sinking ship. Who’s his replacement? Petrone been involved with every Edmonton pro soccer team of which none have lasted or been successful. Not to mention Edmonton don’t even have a soccer facility for them to play in. Good luck in Calgary Joe. 😉

    • footy

      April 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm

      The work might be ongoing, but now is in fact THE most perfect time for any Technical Director or whatever you want to call it to leave. The squad for this season is signed, 30 guys. There’s plenty of time to search a new TD and have him prepare for next season.

      Think about it: it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to start a Calgary team if the Edmonton branch was fading now would it? Edmonton and Calgary are natural rivals, they should boost each other’s revenues.

      I think it’s great. Petrone is right: Canada does need more pro teams. Hey, look at those kids in Panama right now, most of them were just found playing somewhere. They were playing around! Canada must be loaded with talent, it just lacks infrastructure to nurture it. Every new set-up is another step in the development of soccer in Canada.

      • Mike

        April 18, 2013 at 6:16 pm

        Ok. You just blew up the team and at the very least you are guessing whether you have the right players or not. IMO the new coach comes across as being a little egotistical and his prediction of getting 7 points to start the season seems to be off. If they don’t win how does anything change for the better? Now you lost your TD AND you changed the GM AND you changed the coach AND your operating budget went down dramatically AND you blew up the team AND the team doesn’t really have a home field. I want this team to survive but IMO things seem to pointing south.

        The Calgary scenario is just a pipe dream at the moment and as Steve has pointed out the ratio of teams in the US and outside doesn’t make it realistic that Calgary will be accepted for a long time.

  14. Ingrid Green (@Ingridium)

    April 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    McMahon Stadium is the worst venue in Calgary to host soccer, other than a World Cup match, because vastly empty stands do NOT make for good atmosphere. Calgary is less culturally diverse than Edmonton. Fielding a strong + diverse roster will be a difficult feat made impossible by ignoring an ethnically-diverse crowd that is passionate about soccer. Mr. Petrone may be a wizard at weaving attractive hypotheses for investors. That’s his job. But FC Edmonton is hemorrhaging cash. That gets old, quick.

    What Calgary would do well with, is a W-League franchise. No other Canadian city sends more female players to NCAA Div 1 programs, than Calgary. Not Toronto, Mississauga, or Vancouver. Now that Whitecaps + Highlanders have vanished, creating a Western training base in Calgary for u17 & u20 national teams makes sense. Being an asset to ALL the grassroots clubs in the province could create a winning revenue stream.

    But I’m not holding my breath.

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