Canadian Premier League Pulls Plug On FC Edmonton
FC Edmonton was officially taken off life support today, with the Canadian Premier League confirming that it had terminated The Fath Group’s right to operate the franchise, with no CPL presence set to call Edmonton home in 2023.
The death throes of the beleaguered sports team have been open and clear for all to see ever since club owner Tom Fath ran out funding for the side last year, with owners of the league’s other seven clubs having to step in to fund player and staff salaries while the league took over operations of the club.
While the league was approached by a handful of buyers – one of which put in a lowball offer that didn’t cover The Fath Group’s indebtedness to CSB – the CPL Board of Governors unanimously voted to end the club.
“I have made it clear since I became Commissioner that we need certain conditions in each of our markets for our clubs to be successful on and off the field. After careful review, these conditions simply didn’t exist at FC Edmonton, consistently resulting in the smallest league average attendance, lowest revenue, and poor performance in the standings, despite incremental league investment. The die-hard supporters and soccer community of Edmonton deserve better,” said Noonan, who made it clear that the league wants to start fresh with a new Edmonton franchise in the future – something a CPL high-up hold told us over a year ago was good solution.
The club had shuttered its academy ahead of the 2021 season, finishing second from the bottom. With no platform to build from this year, the league made some creative roster rule exemptions to help FC Edmonton run on a shoestring budget this year. Still, nothing was in place to ensure the club could match on into 2023.
Front office staff on staggered contracts had already begun departing in October, with the club winding down well ahead of today’s announcement. Even the club’s stalwart head coach, Alan Koch, began looking elsewhere for his next gig after the league remained quiet on the club’s future last month.
“This decision, while painful in the short term, will allow us to reset the market for a CPL return to Edmonton in the future. The key to this return is having a proper facility to showcase our matches and provide a first-rate fan experience,” added Noonan.
Whatever shape a future FC Edmonton replacement takes, it looks like Clarke Stadium won’t likely be called home: Noonan says the lacklustre grounds are outdated and unsuitable for a CPL franchise.
“We look forward to working with the City of Edmonton leadership on a strategy to return CPL to the market in an appropriate facility. With the right venue, we fully believe Edmonton can, and should be, one of the best markets in the CPL.”
The province’s decision to opt out of host city contention for the 2026 World Cup may hinder progress in this regard, as it seems hypothetical new ownership will need to fond a stadium solution without a local boon event taking place. We’ve seen that Edmonton is certainly a soccer city, but it just hasn’t translated at the club level for FC Edmonton in both the NASL and CPL eras.
The Canadian Premier League says that it is actively engaged in discussions to bring a new CPL franchise to Edmonton when such conditions can be met, with owners who are surely to be well-vetted and not what was called by one high-up as ‘a marriage or necessity at the time’.
“I would like to thank Tom and Dave Fath for their decades of commitment to growing soccer in the city of Edmonton. They love the game, love the city and have been passionate advocates for Canadian soccer. I am saddened that this has not worked out the way they had envisioned and wish them nothing but the best,” Noonan concluded. “To the FC Edmonton players and staff, I also thank you for your commitment to the club and the CPL under challenging circumstances.”
The termination of FC Edmonton means the league will remain at eight teams next season, with Vancouver FC entering the fold. While Saskatoon and Windsor have been publicly awarded expansion rights, we’ve confirmed that Kelowna has been privately awarded one as well.
To that end, Noonan’s closing statement assures fans that the overall health of Canada’s top flight is doing fine – it just couldn’t find a way to make a pre-existing club with significant fiscal baggage like FC Edmonton work.
“Let me be very clear, FC Edmonton is a unique, one-off situation, and is not at all reflective of the overall health and viability of the CPL,” concluded Noonan. “Building on record post-season crowds, exceptional corporate partnerships, increases in player compensation, and with active expansion discussions in no less than six prospective markets, I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of the CPL and soccer in Canada as we head into our fifth season.”
FC Edmonton’s last match took place in front of a home crowd on October 8, 2022, with the team beating Valour FC 3-1.