Home Canadian Premier League CanPL News and Notes The new Canadian Professional League needs to go public ASAP

The new Canadian Professional League needs to go public ASAP


Like many Canadian soccer writers, I’ve been told about plans for the Canadian soccer league in hushed voices.

I’ve heard the stories of the guy who, in fact, wanted to start a rival Canadian league (to the one being rumoured) and was contacting the movers and shakers about his bold plans. It was all so confusing; rumoured league one, and then pie-in-the-sky league two. And the aggressive nature of league two was hurting the credibility of league one.

I’ve heard whispers about CFL owners being involved, then not involved, then involved again. I’ve heard about cities that appear, drop out, appear again. And I am sure if I held a round table with all of Canada’s soccer writers, we could swap some pretty interesting stories about the rumours we’ve heard. In fact, the Canadian league might be the best-ever game of broken telephone ever played.

What we simply know, on the record, is that the NASL’s FC Edmonton isn’t interested in joining. And, in the past, Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani has said his vision is that a new Canadian league would be seen as a Division “1A,” one that would co-exist with the Canadian teams that already play in MLS and NASL (CLICK HERE).

It’s time, though, for the rumour mill to stop. On Wednesday, John McGrane met with the City of Hamilton’s General Issues Committee to talk about his plans to, well, put a bubble over Tim Hortons Field in the winter — and subdivide the real estate into five soccer fields. In the course of his discussions, he spoke about Hamilton Tiger Cats owner Bob Young’s plan to put a team in this upcoming Canadian professional league.

Of course, Bob Young’s name was once linked to a rumoured Hamilton NASL expansion team — and he was a partner of the Carolina RailHawks’ ownership group from 2009 to early 2011.

Now, of course, Canadian soccer fans are all talking about these little droplets of information that came from McGrane, a former NASL player, because, as is the case with what happens at civic public meetings, it got into the local newspaper — in this case, the Hamilton Spectator (CLICK HERE).

From the City of Hamilton's agenda: The blueprint for a covered Tim Hortons Field.
From the City of Hamilton’s agenda: The blueprint for a covered Tim Hortons Field.

This is not how a league is launched. For the first real public pronouncements about the Canadian league to come from a debate over who puts bubbles over fields looks bad on basically our whole soccer establishment. What the investors in said Canadian league need to do now is to get ahead of this story — it’s about time for the rumours to end and some sort of public acknowledgement to be made. If a PR person isn’t in place, hire one. Now.

Instead of a grand announcement — where fans will know exactly what to expect from a league, we’ve got a rumour mill and the minutes of a Hamilton committee meeting.

This league needs to show Canadians that it will be fully professional (not semi-pro), that has investors in multiple regions, and that it is real. It’s too late for the keep-quiet plan; as of Wednesday’s committee meeting in Hamilton, that’s out the window.

Let’s face it. We all want a Canadian soccer league to succeed. But we’re terrified of it becoming another Canadian Soccer League or a semi-pro league run by mattress-warehouse owners who “are big fans of the game” but overstate their financial commitment to a pro team — despite McGrane’s assertation that CFL and NHL money is in the mix. This is NOT a good beginning. It’s time for the REAL owners to stand up.


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  1. Kahkakew Yawassanay

    February 13, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Even if such an alleged league is created, it would never be more than a D2B in terms of quality…there already exists a favorable solution and that is the creation of a Canuck division in the NASL and along with that the CSA should complete their previously agreed upon creation of a national D3 semi pro league. Simply that would require creation of either a West and BC division along with the with Ontario and Quebec leagues or a Western league inclusive of BC which would allow for pro/rel with the NASL’s all Canuck division.

    FC Edmonton will most likely remain in the NASL until either their eventual demise due to terrible home support, the low Canuck buck and/or a lack of success in making the playoffs, but their chances in the NASL as it will eventually expand once the MLS expansion greed grab is over, it is quite possible that numerous USL clubs will jump ship to play in the NASL as a D1 league which will allow Pro/Rel and a shot at the top level of football in North America and the CONCACAF Champions League.

    Far better to be part of an already established league with a well known history than part of another questionable league in Canada with questionable investors, domestic players and supporters interest.
    This alleged D1a league is nothing but bunk as seen by its complete lack of facts, figures and deadlines

  2. cwell

    February 6, 2016 at 10:10 am

    In reply to Kent.
    Hi Kent, Love your optimistic outlook, and, as I said, I’ll be an enthusiastic supporter with a season ticket should CSL 2.0 get going. But I won’t be putting money into it, as I did with CSL 1.0. (Mind you, it was fun while it lasted!)

  3. Kent

    February 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

    In reply to cwell.
    Canada’s under population for the sheer size of the country is a challenge for sure. It’s one I’m ready to see if we can overcome this time. For what it’s worth, the population now is about 28% higher than it was when the CSL folded (28 million in 1991 census, and should be around 36 million I think by the rumoured start of the CPL).

  4. cwell

    February 5, 2016 at 7:35 am

    In reply to Kent.
    I believe that the World Cup millions were essential for MLS to get off the ground and to the point where they could attract investors willing to put up however many millions for a franchise team. That doesn’t mean that a such funding would be necessary for a new CSL, nor that it was needed in other countries similar to Canada. But it would help, don’t you agree? Which is no to be negative; it’s just being realistic.

  5. jloome

    February 4, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    In reply to Kent.
    It’s quite the opposite; we’re actually ripe for a pro soccer league. But it has to be at a high level; Canadians don’t take a back seat on pro sports anymore. That’s why every triple ‘a’ baseball club is dead in this country, and why even junior hockey teams sometimes relocate to improve attendance.

    If we think it’s top class, we’ll attend. We could get 10-15,000 per game in our major cities, and 8,000 to 10,000 in smaller cities.

    But they won’t go to watch low-quality football. The exposure via mass media to the broader world of football and its quality has ruined any chance minor league soccer (which is what a 2nd div league is in N.A.) will gain traction.

    If they want it to work, they have have to be able to raise the quality to something near MLS level, and that’ll take at least $2.5-3M per club per season, or 1.5-to-2-times what they’re proposing. Combine that with really good marketing, good gameday atmosphere and TV… sure. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

  6. Kent

    February 4, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    In reply to left back.
    I don’t follow your logic. You are saying MLS was possible only because it was piggybacked off of hosting the World Cup, therefor no league can be successful without starting out with World Cup money? I guess that’s true except for EVERY OTHER LEAGUE IN THE WORLD (maybe Japan is another exception, I’m not sure). Furthermore, you say that the Women’s World Cup that we just hosted doesn’t count? I don’t remember the numbers, but the Women’s World Cup was profitable.

    Anyways, as fans, let’s just not try to kill this thing before it starts and be excited at the idea of more pro soccer in our country. None of us commenting on this is on the hook for the money, aside from the money we pay, if we so choose, to go to games, etc.

    Russia is a big country and makes it work. It also has a harsh winter, just like lots of other European countries. Australia is a huge country with an even smaller population than Canada and they make it work. We are not nearly as unique/pathetic as people think we are.

  7. Kent

    February 4, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    In reply to corbeaunoir.
    You are right that we don’t know that Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver will be able to sustain another pro team, but I think it’s worth noting that the USL teams are a completely different animal than a CPL team would be. USL gets 0 coverage in mainstream media, and we don’t know if that will be the case for the CPL. There is a non-zero chance that the CPL will get reported on, and even potentially get games on TV, they would definitely be part of the Voyageurs Cup, and they would be teams that gave a damn if they won or lost games. The USL teams are for reserve players trying to make it to the big team, new players dropping in and out throughout the season, senior players playing to regain fitness, etc. They are not about having a competitive team going out and trying to win games. That’s a harder sell than a CPL team would be, I believe.

  8. cwell

    February 4, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    In reply to left back.
    Hi Left Back.Twenty years to get it right! I don’t think I’ll live that long, which is one reason that I’m determined to get the most out of supporting TFC, applauding the three Canadian clubs for their academy programmes, and encouraging CNMT to do the best they can against nearly impossible odds. If we manage to squeak into the hex, so much the better. The important thing is to try our best with what we’ve got.

  9. corbeaunoir

    February 4, 2016 at 11:09 am

    In reply to Tomas.
    Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal all already have two pro-level teams, and the drop-off in attendance between MLS and USL is dramatic. To say they can all ‘easily’ accommodate a third pro team when there’s already two affordable local options seems like wishful thinking.

  10. left back

    February 4, 2016 at 9:25 am

    oops…. 10 years… math is a bit off this morning… need a coffee….

  11. left back

    February 4, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Cwell…. you hit the nail on the head… the MLS was brought to life with the money earned from the 94 world cup in the states. That money made the league financially viable as it provided a safety net to investors if things didn’t work out. I guess the CSA could of done that with the women’s world cup if they were organized enough… to start a league out of thin air is not going to work.. unless the league is sponsored by Westjet and everyone flies around Canada on the cheap…. I would love to see a national league in Canada and it would sure help our national program 15 years down the road but… Canada doesn’t put a lot of money into sport at the governmental level so…. looks like we are still many years away…. ;-(

    or until we host the men’s world cup…. 2026 is the target date? So… we have 20 years to plan and get it right…..

  12. cwell

    February 4, 2016 at 7:01 am

    In reply to Kent.
    Hi, Kent. You’re right that I love soccer, which has led me to try to avoid disappointments with moving the game forward in Canada. I’ve concluded that the country is just too underpopulated and spread out to make a professional league economically feasible. One of the main reasons that MLS was able to reach take-of levels, so to say, was because of the considerable sum of money that the US Soccer Federation received or earned as a result of hosting the World Cup. They also profited from learning from the mistakes of NASL 1.0 (although I fear that they are starting to forget those when I see how rapidly they are expanding to pocket expansion fees). At any rate, I wish all who are prepared to take the leap and invest money in CSL 2.0 well. I’ll buy a season ticket, if there is a team in Ottawa. Cheers.

  13. Blizzard

    February 3, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    In reply to Kent.
    I agree with Kent regarding those who don’t even want to try. We will have learned from those mistakes of the past which must never be repeated ….. but not even trying to take Canadian soccer to the next level (which MLS club soccer is not allowing us to do), we will forever be consigned to the lower levels of the sport. The attempt has to be made.

    BTW, I agree with you Steven, league info cannot dribble out like this. The Hamilton information should not have been made public in this way at this time.

    It was a mistake and as a result I’ve spent the last hour on Facebook trying to calm down two people who feel that the CPL will be an amateur non-FIFA league.

  14. Tomas

    February 3, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    It’s about time that a new National Canadian league is put together, when the game is on the rise in North America. I can see Ottawa Fury likely joining the Canadian Premier League from the start and FC Edmonton joining a year or two later. Clubs in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal alongside the USA’s MLS are needed as well and those markets can easily support two clubs in their large metro areas.

  15. corbeaunoir

    February 3, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    In reply to Steven Sandor.
    Fair, but I’ll afford the US more wiggle room on account of half the country not living within the proximity of two cities an hour’s flight apart. Canada’s population being so unevenly distributed means there’s few sensible untapped markets left, and Calgary and Hamilton would be far better served playing in a league where there are already established regional rivals.

  16. jloome

    February 3, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    They’re already going about this with the wrong approach, if the numbers being batted around are realistic. There’s a reason, second- and third-division-quality football on gridiron pitches only attracts the most die-hard fans. Television has raised expectations, and MLS barely meets them.

    Just based on how many Canadians identify as football fans, it’s clear the numbers ARE there to support a Canadian premier league. But it has to be like the A-League or the League of Ireland, or any top league in a smaller nation and still have competitive salary structures, a strong base of fan club support and decent places to play. So far, this doesn’t sound like it will meet even NASL standard, which isn’t good enough to make money and draw crowds even equal to the old Brickmen days.

  17. Steven Sandor

    February 3, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    In reply to corbeaunoir.
    It does need to be noted that Chicago entered MLS as an expansion market.

  18. corbeaunoir

    February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    In reply to Kent.
    The difference was that American investors weren’t stupid enough to attempt to create a pro sports league that completely ignored New York, LA, and Chicago. It’s easy enough to say “let’s just dive in head first and try because it’s been a long while” when you’re not writing the checks, but I’ve yet to hear any plausible solution to how a “national” league can reasonably operate when 5 of the country’s 6 biggest cities are already covered by pro soccer and none of them are interested in crossing over to what would be an inferior product. Evidently these prospective owners can’t think of a legitimate plausible solution either, which is why they don’t mindlessly throw their money into a black hole to satisfy a few dozen people who frequent a fringe sports blog and these vague rumors and statements never amount to anything concrete. The logistical math of it just makes no sense.

  19. Kent

    February 3, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    In reply to cwell.
    Is that what Americans were saying in the years between the fall of the NASL and the beginning of MLS? The USA waited 12 years after their latest failed soccer league before they tried again. It’s been 24 years since our last failed soccer league. Let’s give it a shot, and since we love soccer (not everybody, but everybody reading this website, and definitely you cwell) let’s do our best to support this league.

    A lot has changed in Canada since the CSL folded. We won’t know if this thing will fail or succeed unless we try.

  20. cwell

    February 3, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Been there. Done that. Will never work.

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