Clanachan: CPL Needs To Be In Ottawa
As the USL-based Ottawa Fury knocked the Halifax Wanderers out of the Canadian Championship with a 5-4 aggregate thriller, Canadian Premier League commissioner David Clanachan was extending an olive branch to the Ottawa club’s ownership group: the offer to join the CPL is, he assures, still on the table.
The 57-year-old league commissioner has been talking to plenty of ownership groups over the last few months, though he said only three or four of them have broken away from the pack in terms of serious progression. Of that group, he’d like to see at least one join for the next season of Canadian Premier League action.
If that club happened to be Ottawa Fury, the drama of the USL side rejecting the burgeoning domestic league earlier this year would be water under the bridge for Clanachan. The Fury was expected to be the eighth and final team to be announced for the league’s inaugural season, but opted to stay in the USL where it had found a proven and successful business model.
CONCACAF came close to removing sanctioning for the Ottawa-based club to play in USL, but acquiesced when things came down to the wire: The Fury is clear to play in the USL, at least for this year.
The ball is really in their court. At one point, there needs to be Canadian Premier League team in Ottawa. That I’m sure of. We’ll keep working towards that, and obviously try to convince our friends in Ottawa that they want that team in the league. To me, it makes so much sense. The rivalries are there.David Clanachan
If there’s a deadline for the Ottawa Fury to make the jump, Clanachan isn’t explicitly saying it, though the potential for another ownership group to swoop in and establish itself in the Ottawa area remains. Clanachan is adamant that there needs to be a team in the capital city, but he shied away from saying it explicitly had to be the Fury.
To be a truly Canadian coast-to-coast league, it’s difficult to not include your nation’s capital in that end. The fans and supporters in Ottawa deserve a team in the Canadian Premier League. I’ve said that from day one, so there’s always a pathway there.David Clanachan
He ended that section of the conversation by saying ‘we’ll make it work one way or the other’, so it seems pretty clear that while the Ottawa Fury is the preferred choice due to the fact that the club has already established itself, there remains the distinct possibility of a new ownership group establishing a CPL club in the nation’s capital.
Outside of Ottawa, some large steps are being taken to test out if different markets can sustain a Canadian Premier League club. Joe Belan’s ownership group is going the hands-on route with the SK Summer Soccer Series, which is a litmus test to see if Saskatoon can bring in the numbers needed to sustain the costs of running a professional team. Closer to Ottawa, former Canadian international Alex Bunbury has been working hard to establish a club in Montreal – and he also believes a team in Quebec City will be announced soon, too.
While fans will have to wait and see if the year 2020 brings any expansion clubs to the Canadian Premier League, Clanachan is positive that the league is trending in the right direction. Now that the league has established itself at a high level of play (with spring season winners Cavalry FC even knocking the Whitecaps out of the Canadian Championship this week), secured several sponsorship agreements, and signed a 10-year media deal with MEDIAPRO, the value of CPL clubs is only going up.
For ownership groups that are still on the fence, that means waiting comes with heftier buy-in fees, though Clanachan says it’s nowhere near the numbers of other North American sports leagues like MLS. He hasn’t heard any ownership groups balking regarding the fees, which at least suggests that the numbers still indicate a very viable venture for the respective groups.
Now fans just need to wait and see who is confident enough to make the jump – Fury or not.