Canadian Premier League Open To More Parent Clubs Like Atletico Madrid
When the Ottawa Fury closed its doors back in November, one would have been hard-pressed to imagine a scenario where a new professional soccer team would be announced in the nation’s capital just two months later. Thanks to the backing power of Atletico Madrid and a key local figure, however, that’s exactly what happened.
With Atletico Ottawa having assembled the majority of its squad ahead of an expected shortened 2020 Canadian Premier League season, Atletico Madrid has quickly proven that it has the proverbial tools in its toolshed to make things happen, even in the midst of a pandemic.
While some fans aren’t sold on the Atletico branding and others voiced concerns about a foreign ownership group, CPL Commissioner David Clanachan has stood by the backers of the league’s first-ever expansion team from the get-go.
When the club was first unveiled, Clanachan reassured fans that the parent club was completely in-line with the league’s vision to giving Canadians time to play on the pitch, with the club’s visual identity also giving nod to its Canadian roots. He also stated that fans had essentially won the lottery when Atletico Madrid came to town.
So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Clanachan has doubled down on his approach to more foreign parent clubs tying themselves in with the burgeoning league: if their values align, he’s all for it.
I get asked a lot because of the Atletico Ottawa piece and having Atletico Madrid come in to Canada, what does that mean? Does that mean you’re open to doing that going forward? The answer is always yes. It is yes if that club’s strategy fits the league’s strategy. We’ve continued to have discussions. Obviously, you put a pause in for a significant period of time in your business, it does have a little bit of an impact for sure, but we continue to work through that. It gives us time to spend on that, that maybe we would’ve been doing on other things.David Clanachan, via OneSoccer
Shortly after Atletico Ottawa first became a talking point, there were already rumours that OL Groupe was looking to invest in the league, too. While Atletico Madrid is the only club with concrete substance so far, the fact that Clanachan indicated that the league has continued to have discussions with foreign clubs bodes well for future growth opportunities.
Of course, one obvious condition for foreign clubs is that no top division Canadian side ever becomes a ‘B Team’ of sorts. Before the league had even kicked its first ball, Clanachan made it clear that there would be no tie-in MLS reserve teams. It’s an ambition that has resonated well with fans.
Talks have continued with local investors, too. This week, Clanachan made specific mention that the league wants to be in Montreal or Quebec City, with multiple ownership groups considering a Quebec-based expansion club. In Saskatchewan, Joe Belan has made his ambitions to launch a CPL team in the province quite public.
Our future expansion plans have not changed at all. In fact, we’ve continued to have discussions, as unbelievable as that sounds, with people in Canada but also in clubs around the world.
The Canadian Premier League has always aimed to have fourteen to sixteen clubs in time for the 2026 World Cup, with plans to eventually add a second division that would introduce promotion and relegation into the Canadian professional football environment. Even with the aforementioned slowdown due to the pandemic, Clanachan evidently feels that this is still an attainable goal.
If foreign parent clubs want to establish themselves in the Canadian market and have the capital to do so, it sounds like Clanachan is all ears so long as the clubs respect the original visions and goals of the league itself.
With the commissioner also giving mention to the city of Toronto along with long-rumoured expansion locations like the lower mainland in BC, the Atlantic, and Quebec, there are ample markets where the league feels it can find success ahead of the World Cup.
The Canadian Premier League is currently look at ways to have a modified season that is expected to be hosted by a single location. So far, Langford and Charlottetown appear to be the frontrunners for this, with the shortened season likely kicking off in August.
In the interim, seven of the eight CPL clubs have returned to training, with FC Edmonton expected to be back in action later this week.
Source: OneSoccer (via YouTube)