Home Canadian Premier League CanPL News and Notes Promotion-relegation. Independent-club system. The future of CanPL, as seen by its new commissioner

Promotion-relegation. Independent-club system. The future of CanPL, as seen by its new commissioner


The new commissioner of the Canadian Premier League prefers the independent club system. He dreams of a time when Canada has a Premier League, a second division and a third division — and teams are promoted and relegated through those leagues. He envisions Canadian pro soccer teams from coast-to-coast.

Meet David Clanachan, the former CEO and president of Tim Hortons who will be steering the Canadian Premier League.

In an interview with The 11, the new commissioner addressed some of the burning questions supporters have had since rumours of a Canadian division-one league first surfaced.

On the league launch in 2019:

“Some supporters have been frustrated with what they see as the lack of movement with the league. What I say is that Rome wasn’t built in a day. If it was, we would have hired their contractor.

“But I am very confident in saying we have an incredible quality of interested parties that we are currently vetting. I’d say there are between 12 and 15 who have shown the appropriate levels of interest. And I expect the league to start with between eight to 10 teams in 2019, coast to coast.”

How will clubs be run: Like MLS (central control, franchise model) or the independent-club model?

“I like MLS. I am a fan of what they’ve done. But the way I see our league operating is very different. I think what MLS has done very well is to create grassroots community-based fanbases. At one time, soccer was very ethnic-based. But I think it has turned a corner where we look at it more like we do hockey in Canada.

“But we are looking at a club-based style. We are not looking at a franchise system. We are looking for each of our clubs to build from the ground up, and we know it’s important what we do at the community level.”

With so much interest, will you need to cap the number of teams? Promotion-relegation?

“I would like to imagine where we have a Premier League, a second division and a third division. I’d say, plus or minus, we’d look at about 16 teams in the Premier League. One table.  Then, if other communities want to get involved, you would look at promotion and relegation. I am a fan of the promotion-relegation system. It’s the system that works around the world.”

DAVID CLANACHAN Photo by Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo.

What will be the roster minimums for Canadians?

“We are working through it. But I can say that our ownership groups are all nodding in the same way. This league is about developing a professional soccer industry in Canada. Players. Coaches. Administrators. When it comes to the actual numbers, our soccer operations people are working through it. Our soccer operations people, they’d probably prefer I stay away from that, because I am very passionate about it. But we know that there are a number of federations out there who have had issues with fewer of their players in their domestic leagues, and the impact it has on their programs.”

Will the winner of the CanPL get a CONCACAF Champions League berth?

(Note: Currently, Canada gets one spot, allocated to the winner of the Canadian Championship, which is essentially a national Cup competition).

“We fully expect that the Canadian Premier League champion will get a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League. And, our teams expect to play in the Canadian Championship, and that could lead to another spot.”

(Canada has lobbied to get a second spot in the CCL, and a domestic league would help with that push).

How did you get interested in the job?

“Obviously I’ve had lots of exposure to professional sports at different levels in Canada, through my previous experience with Tim Hortons. I’m very passionate about sport. And, in discussions with (Hamilton Tiger-Cats owner) Bob Young and (Ti-Cats CEO) Scott Mitchell, they asked me would I be interested in getting involved? ‘You’ve been passionate about soccer your whole life.’ I have the mix of passion and business acumen, and the opportunity came at a crossroads, an intersection… then I got to know the prospective owners, and saw the level of passion they have, and the amazing supporters groups across the country, and the level of passion they have.

“The demographics for soccer are very good. The new immigrants; the male-female split. Soccer is very gender-neutral.

“But it’s not going to be an overnight thing. This is still going to take a lot of patience going forward.”



Load More Related Articles
Load More By Steven Sandor
Load More In CanPL News and Notes


  1. Peter Parker

    January 13, 2018 at 12:23 am

    If they can get guys like Kyle Bekker, Karl Ouimette, and Nik Ledgerwood involved as experienced players in this league, it would provide some good leadership for the young players who will populate the rosters. That’s the best way they can help Herdman build the MNT program by mentoring guys at this level. Though the ship has sailed on their international careers and maybe their club careers at Division 2 North America, they still have a key role

  2. Matti

    January 11, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Very best of luck to the man! I am reading a history of the MLS in the form of Phil West’s United States of Soccer. The MLS was certainly not built over-night, but if Commissioner Clanachan can do even as half as well this side of the border (with the standard pro/rel system, free agency of players etc) it will be a monumental achievement. Thanks for continuing to cover this super interesting topic too.

  3. Kent

    January 10, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    I like the things he is saying. Really excited about the news today!

  4. footy fan

    January 10, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Sure hope FC Edmonton joins the CPL for the launch in 2019, wish they would have stayed in NASL one more year.

Check Also

Belan sets cautious path towards CanPL

The new approach from Belan is in contrast to appearances from a year ago when it looked a…