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canadian premier league promotion relegation discussion

Clanachan, Hart, and Wheeldon Jr Talk Promotion and Relegation In The CPL

By on November 12, 2019 2 2496 Views

With so many Canadian Premier League officials for theCPL-U SPORTS Draft, it only makes sense that the league would organize a few events that put several key figures of Canada’s only professional domestic league in the same room and gave them a microphone.

The league recently hosted a panel which saw league commissioner David Clanachan, Halifax Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart, Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr, CPL Director of Soccer Operations Michael Findlay, and CS Monteuil’s David Cerasuolo discuss their thoughts on both the inaugural season and the future.

The panel host, Arcadio Marcuzzi, used the opportunity to check in with Clanachan and ask if the long term goals he had set for the league prior to its first season still remained on the table.

Clanachan reconfirmed that he’s still aiming to have fourteen to sixteen clubs in the Canadian Premier League by the time Canada hosts a handful of World Cup games in 2026, and also broached the subject of a second division once again.

With that second division, of course, comes the long-term goal of promotion and relegation between the Canadian Premier League and an as-yet-unnamed second division that would operate at the professional level. Clanachan hopes to be in a position to strongly consider this idea as the 2026 World Cup helps boost domestic interest in the game:

Another thing that exists in this game of ours, this idea of promotion and relegation, just adds another dynamic to the whole thing. It’s very entertaining for folks, and so I think that’s a real opportunity for us. It’s a different level of football, but it’s also a feeder system as well. We need to be thinking and dreaming big, we have to have big goals here, and I think we do.

David Clanachan

With no professional second division to be found in Canada right now, clubs are currently utilizing a variety of ‘feeder systems’: FC Edmonton has an academy, while Cavalry FC and Forge FC have utilized strong attachments with the likes of Calgary Foothills and Sigma FC, respectively. League1 Ontario has helped produce a healthy portion of the league’s first-year professionals, while Pacific FC brought in plenty of former Whitecaps Academy products.

When it comes to the idea of promotion and relegation, Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. states that it will add to the emotions of an authentic sporting experience:

I think it excites. We have this culture here where we need a playoff to celebrate performance, but in actuality if you have promotion and relegation, if you’re in the bottom of the league, that game is just important as playing to win the league. I think promotion and relegation keeps everyone honest. It keeps coaches, players, ownerships, and fans honest. Anyone who has seen the documentary Sunderland Til I Die, that’s a great one because of how powerful and emotive it is, because essentially whether you’re religious or not, whether you’re married or not, I think you never change who you support. It’s so true. What we’re creating now is seven tribes across the country, and the supporters sections that you’re seeing, now you’ve got new tribes. We’re tribal by nature. That’s how communities are built. You attach to a tribe because you believe in that, and that’s it, and it’s binding for the rest of your life. If you have promotion and relegation, the fear in Canada and the fear in America is that suddenly it’s a loss of revenue, but actually it spikes emotion. […] I think it will test how well we want to support our teams.

Tommy Wheeldon Jr.

When it came time for Halifax Wanderers head coach Stephen Hart to offer his opinion, the former national team coach stated that while he personally likes the idea of promotion and relegation, the concept must be approached in a slow, cautious manner:

I think you have certain traditions around the world. Promotion and relegation is normal because the fanbase and the culture is that you were born into a club. You were born into a club, that goes down, you go too. […] I think it’s something that we have to approach very, very slowly, because if you look at our neighbours, if I may, they have the MLS, and then they have the largest league in the world, which is the USL. At some point, that could grow into promotion and relegation, but I think at first – I have children – first you have to learn to creep. Then, when you begin to walk, soon you will be running. Maybe it will take a little bit of time. I like it, personally, because it has a certain amount of passion with it, but I’m not sure it’s something we could just bite off and swallow very easily.

Stephen Hart

Of course, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison when it comes to Major League Soccer and the Canadian Premier League. When ownership groups invested in MLS, they did so on the premise that their club would always operate in USA’s tier one division. Both leagues also feature drastically different expansion fees, with the USL also hosting affiliate sides for many MLS clubs.

In the Canadian Premier League, ownership groups knew from the get-go that promotion and relegation was always a future possibility. Beyond that, they reportedly buy a stake in Canada Soccer Business itself, which would help mitigate the costs associated with relegation.

In any event, the league will need to undergo plenty of expansion before promotion and relegation is a feasible concept. It’s looking like there won’t be any new teams for 2020, but expansion into provinces like Saskatchewan and Quebec seems likely for 2021. Once the CPL grows to the point where two divisions are feasible, Clanachan has already spoken about his excitement at the smaller secondary markets such a venture could sustain, too.

Header Image Sources: Canadian Premier League

  • Bobby jax 5 years ago

    happy they have long term plans about relegation (even though I have no idea how they’re going to make money to pay players) but playing in giant stadiums that are 80% empty is going to be a problem. no matter how loud fans are, the visuals are horrible (at least only sell seats on the side that shows on camera) but since part of the reason for the league is to use existing big stadiums that’s gonna be a problem.
    But the idea of a college draft is the worst one. the US has finally moved to an academy system and the draft is a remnant of an old time but we’re going to a college system which makes even less sense since the college season is two months long and those players were ALL formed elsewhere (and then maybe pay the club that formed him for X years). maybe it’s only until CSL teams get their academies running and this will be phased out. but it’s strange for a league that tries so hard to imitate English soccer (the name premier league is as tacky as Real Salt Lake or Atlanta United only thing missing is the ubiquitous British play by play guys) would get this so wrong. No one does college drafts in the world and MLS has weaned itself.

  • Kevin Reidy 4 years ago

    The real issue is what sort of vision do they have for the CPL (First Division.) The league gets better if you have better players but they cost more money. One way to get more money is increase attendance. However, how many markets could generate enough support to get 10,000-15,000 average attendance? VCould any of the larger cities support a second team? (Three cities will have an MLS team as well as a CPL team so that takes away some opportunities.) With Ottawa back in play we have 8 CPL teams. Rumoured expansion is to (Ville de) Quebec, Montreal area, Saskatchewan, and lower mainland in BC. That’s twelve in the CPL (plus 3 in MLS which compete for fan support.) Where else do you go? There are people lobbying for this place or that place but does that city have suitable playing facility? is there an ownership group willing take the risk in a smaller market or a market where there is competition from existing teams? There might be cities that might be able to support a professional team at current attendance levels but not at higher levels anticipated in the future.

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