‘Let’s See Where Things Go From Here’: Belan May Renew Saskatchewan CPL Interest
With Living Sky Sports and Entertainment officially calling curtains on its proposed stadium development in Prairieland, a Canadian Premier League spokesperson has confirmed that the group’s exclusive expansion rights to Saskatchewan have now lapsed.
While that’s certainly a public blunder for the CPL, it means that an entire province has opened up again to prospective owners. Effectively, it’s back to the drawing board…and perhaps back to an original CPL hopeful, too.
Enter Joe Belan.
Back in 2019, the financial sector entrepreneur was the public face of a CPL venture in Saskatchewan, hosting exhibition matches in Saskatoon that drew in over 3,000 people in a bid to gauge if a professional team in the province would be sustainable.
His interest in such a project hasn’t waivered, even if he wasn’t involved in the bid which ultimately won tentative exclusivity rights from the CPL back in 2021.
“I would ultimately like to see a pro team in Saskatchewan,” Belan told us just this week. “I strongly believe the province needs the structure that a professional club can bring to help progress player development and grow the game.”
The Port Colborne native – himself a former Canadian youth international – has made quite a name for himself in the world of private equity investments and investment banking, giving him a solid toolbox when it comes to identifying the sustainability and feasibility of a CPL franchise in the province.
He had adopted a slow and steady approach to the venture in 2019, telling us that it’d take ‘as long as it takes’ to get the right foundation in place before he’d formally launch a bid for an expansion team. With multiple exhibition matches drawing thousands of fans, things seemed to be progressing well in that direction before the pandemic struck.
Still, things didn’t move fast enough for Al Simpson, who was part of Belan’s original ownership group and wanted things done differently. He eventually grabbed hold of CPL rights with his own group instead, cutting Belan out from the venture.
Simpson’s group locked in Prairieland Park as a location, which Belan had also been aiming for, but the manner in which they ousted Joe from the group laid them subject to a ten million dollar lawsuit that remains unresolved, while the hefty amount of public funding required for the stadium saw progress slow on the conceptual front, too.
Now that Living Sky Sports and Entertainment has relinquished its grip on the province, we could see Joe Belan step back up to the plate: his interest in bringing pro football to the province hasn’t waivered, though there are a number of loose ends that need to be resolved before such a venture takes place – namely, the ongoing litigation filed against Al Simpson, Living Sky Sports and Entertainment, and Prairieland itself.
Belan had always said that it’d be Saskatchewan or bust for his own ownership venture, even back when the Canadian Premier League hadn’t yet launched. While he’s been quiet ever since he lost out on the very CPL ownership bid he’d started, it’s interesting to see that he still has hope that Saskatchewan will get a professional soccer team to call its own.
“Let’s see where things go from here,” he suggested for now. True to form, he’s going to make sure that the right pieces will be in place first, and that can take serious time.
Of course, the Canadian Premier League didn’t just open up ownership proposals from Belan, or limit the venture to Saskatoon: an ownership group could spring up from anywhere, and last year saw Regina prove itself a city with plenty of soccer interest, too.
While the future of professional football in Saskatchewan is unclear at the moment, in time we expect public-facing groups to show themselves. Like Living Sky Sports and Entertainment, however, any ownership group in the province will face a key hurdle in securing a stadium to call home.