Home Canadian Premier League CanPL News and Notes So many balls to juggle when it comes to stocking CanPL with players

So many balls to juggle when it comes to stocking CanPL with players

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Those of us who have already bought our memberships for coming-to-a-city-near-you-in-2019 Canadian Premier League franchise are waiting, and waiting, and waiting, to learn who will actually play for our teams.

The CanPL brass has been trying to work out how players who want to come back to Canada to play will be allocated to teams. And, by all accounts, it’s been a very difficult puzzle to put together.

It’s easy for fans to say “this is a club system, not a franchise system” and want it to be a free-for-all in terms of signing players. But, in year one, you also want teams to start on the same line, and a free-for-all would give some teams massive advantages over the others. Remember that most European leagues didn’t start this way; there were clubs already in place who joined a new, bigger, league. Many of the clubs have histories that predate their respective leagues. So you can’t compare the European way to how we start a new Canadian league with so many infant franchises all starting at once.

So, what makes the CanPL’s job of allocating players so complicated? Because there’s no real one-size-fits-all solution, yet the league needs to find some semblance of one. And there are so many factors that make it so important for a league to find some kind of fair system that will repatriate Canadian players, but allow all of the teams to have some kind of common ground.

Travel

This is where Halifax is at a huge disadvantage. For now, at least, Wanderers are isolated on the East Coast. The closest of the seven announced teams is in Ontario. That means Halifax will easily have the toughest travel schedule of any team in the league. And it’s not like the CanPL teams will be flying charter. You can’t fly direct from Halifax to many of the cities in the west.

Players and agents are aware of this. Trust me, when FC Edmonton played in the NASL, the first thing players talked about wasn’t the weather or the turf or having to play training camp sessions indoors — it was the travel schedule. They saw the map of the league, saw a bunch of teams in the American southeast, and one dot in the map way up in some Canadian outpost. And there were so many stories of airport layovers, missed flights, delayed flights, sending half of the team on one route and the  other half  on another route. If a player can choose between multiple destinations, the travel issue is an anchor (pun intended) on Halifax.

Home is Regional, Not National

We like to talk about bringing players back home to Canada to play. But Canada is a big place. The players I’ve  spoken to don’t talk about coming to CanPL as a league; they ask about coming home to specific teams. Sure, players will be enticed by the thought of being close to where they were brought up — but that’s the thing. To a player from British Columbia, playing for Valour FC or Hamilton isn’t coming home. Not at all.  I’ve had players tell me, “I’d love to come back to Canada, but only to play in city A or city B.”

For some young players, knowing what they could make in CanPL, they’d want family supports of some kind.

So, just by sheer numbers, if players could all call their shots when it came to coming home, Pacific FC and the Ontario teams will have huge advantages.  Edmonton would do all right. Again, Halifax would be on the bottom of the ladder.

Who Gets to Call Their Own Shot?

So, if there are going to be many stages to the allocation process, how do we rate the players coming back to the league? Should a player coming back from a lower division English side have more right to say where he wants to go than a player coming back from the top tier of Finnish football? Should a player coming back from Hungary have more mobility rights than a player coming back from the Indian league?  Are national-team caps the way we have to compare players, to put them on a ladder of where they are in terms of priority signings?

What’s Rich in Winnipeg is Poor in Toronto

Because the league will have a salary cap, it means that a Canadian midfielder with a few years of lower-division experience who signs with Valour FC will be making roughly the same as a comparable player who signs with York 9. Problem is, while players will be under some sort of salary control, the costs of living in the Canadian cities varies — by a lot. And, so, players who might be making, let’s say, $50,000, might say “whoa, no to Toronto.” I mean, I would. Not because Toronto isn’t a great city. It is. But it’s an unaffordable city.

Those same dollars will go a lot further in the prairies or on the East Coast.

Put it this way. I live in Edmonton, I live close to downtown. I have disposable income to go out, to spend on my kids, to be able to go on trips here and there. For me to have even close to the same lifestyle in Toronto, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I’d have to make at least one and a half times what I make here.

And, for players who have families to support those cost-of-living differences become even more important.

So, there are lots of factors that will influence where players could go — and unfairly penalize some teams — if it was all left to the free market in year one. The struggle for the CanPL is to be the league it promises to be — a place of opportunity for Canadian players — but to measure that with the need for all teams to have some sort of competitive balance.

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