Rumour: Ottawa On Fast-Track To CPL Expansion
Update: Jeff Hunt has been identified as a key figure behind the deal, stating that it was closed to being finalized.
This week, multiple reports have broken out suggesting that a Canadian Premier league expansion group in Ottawa backed by foreign investors has made significant progress in not only securing a CPL expansion team in the nation’s capital, but also potentially fielding a team in the 2020 season that is slated to kick off just four months from now.
When the Ottawa Fury officially ceased operations and its players began moving to new leagues (including the Canadian Premier League), one would be forgiven for assuming that professional soccer may take quite some time to return to Ottawa, which is a place that CPL commissioner David Clanachan said that Canada’s professional domestic league absolutely needs to be.
At the present time, it isn’t known who the prospective ownership group is, or ultimately who the foreign investors are, either. Freelance journalist Thomas Nef – who stated today that the Ottawa to CPL deal has concluded – has reported that a La Liga club (and therefore its majority investors) are financing the expansion side in the nation’s capital.
While initial rumours suggested that it may be Espanyol, which has Chinese company Rastar Group as a majority owner, it appears a different club (and investor) is behind the Ottawa bid. Sportsnet host Dan Riccio earmarked Atletico Madrid as the investor, with Duane Rollins seconding the notion while also adding that a source had informed him the team may take the name of Atletico Ottawa.
If an Ottawa-based club does take to the pitch come 2020, there are certainly stadium options in the city that could work – but it would be a difficult task to recruit both a full team roster and front office staff in order to have the expansion side game-ready by the time the season kicks off. That isn’t a lot of time to market to the community and sell tickets, either.
It is unclear if John Pugh or any members who ran the Ottawa Fury front office are involved in the potential expansion side.
Still, the fact remains that multiple reports regarding situation indicate that a deal to launch an Ottawa-based Canadian Premier League in time for the 2020 season is in the midst, with league officials also having reportedly prepared a 2020 league schedule adjusted for an eight-team season in the event that such a situation transpired.
This would help produce a balanced schedule and minimize midweek games, which hurt attendance in the inaugural season. It would also reduce the amount of fixture congestion that impacted clubs last year.
Clanachan has suggested that the log-jam holding expansion clubs back was nearly broken, with prospective ownership groups making significant progress in Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Quebec – though these other projects are aiming for 2021 and beyond.
The newly-rumoured and rapidly mentioned Ottawa expansion deal – which Nef reports was concluded today – was initially reported to have a deadline of January 31, 2020 if the club was to be ready for the 2020 season.
Given that this is all based on rumours for the time being, the news should be taken with a grain of salt. If it does come to fruition, it’s a significant game-changer for the 2020 Canadian Premier League season, and one that happened in a very short timeframe.
Sources: Thomas Nef (via Twitter), Duane Rollins (via Twitter)
That’s a big “if” there. But even if they announced a confirmation that there’d be a 2021 team, I’d be happy.
CanPL twitter posted a graphic of CPL free agents today. Ottawa would have no trouble filling out a roster of experienced CPL talent. And if they turn out to be backed by Atletico Madrid, as is the current rumour… players will be lining up to play for Ottawa!
And if that’s true… players lining up will be the whole point of this venture. I mean, it’s not like Atletico Madrid needs to make a profit by selling tickets to Ottawa fans, what they’d be interested in is the Tier 1 competition for their prospects, and a scouting foothold in Canada.
A Canadian investor wouldn’t want to launch a team on such a tight deadline, because they’d have to launch the marketing campaign simultaneously. An owner like Atletico Madrid wouldn’t have to worry about that.
And, of course, their cheque would certainly clear. So maybe a 2020 launch makes sense…
1) How many of last year’s Fury team haven’t signed anywhere for the upcoming season?
2) What playing dates are available at TD? With the Fury ceasing operations you wouldn’t be holding any dates? What other venues are available? If you are complaining about a running track at a U Sports facility then what sort of reaction would you get if you played at the Lynx’s old ballpark (which is also run by a partnership involving OSEG)
I think Ottawa being near Toronto and Montreal also plays a factor for Atletico Madrid.
Since adding an 8th team for this season would make scheduling etc a lot easier for the existing 7 teams then what are they willing to do to help this new team get started. They have missed the U Sports draft. What U 21 players can they get? Could they get a waiver that would allow them to count any rookie Canadian. Thus a U Sports 2020 grad would count even though he is over 21?
Great news for soccer lovers and for business as well.
Can’t wait to watch CPL on