Saskatchewan CPL Ownership Group Facing $10m Lawsuit
Correction: Grant McLaughlin now works at Fasken.
Northern Tribune has confirmed that Alan Simpson and his company Living Sky Sports and Entertainment, who won exclusive rights to launch a Canadian Premier League team in Saskatchewan, are facing a ten million dollar lawsuit from Simpson’s former business partner Joe Belan.
The news was first broken by Canadian soccer podcaster Duane Rollins, with a lawsuit from Belan’s Novatrek Capital having indeed been filed with the Ontario Superior Court on February 1.
The lawsuit, which seeks $10 million in damages, alleges that Al Simpson’s Living Sky Sports and Entertainment and the Prairieland Park Corporation committed a breach of contract regarding the placement of a soccer-specific stadium in Prairieland Park, which Belan claims his company held exclusive rights to.
At the time of writing, neither Al Simpson nor Joe Belan had replied to our comment request.
Both Joe Belan and Al Simpson have long been involved in bringing a professional soccer team to Saskatchewan. Belan formed the initial group behind the province’s Saskatchewan Summer Soccer Series, a litmus test of exhibition matches made to gauge the feasibility of supporting a pro soccer team in the area.
The filing states that Simpson was involved in those discussions as early as September 2017, before which he had approached the CPL about obtaining a team individually. He then became formally involved in Belan’s exhibition series along with Grant McGlaughlin, an investor who is not involved in the lawsuit and previously worked at Goodmans LLP until 2018. That’s the same firm Belan has hired to represent his company in the lawsuit.
It is alleged that an exclusive deal between Belan’s Novatrek Capital and the Prairieland Park Corporation was made which locked Prairieland in as the exclusive site for the construction of a planned stadium, with terms stipulating that Prairieland was not to negotiate with any third party over the use of the stadium for soccer, rugby, field lacrosse, or ultimate frisbee.
As time passed, however, the filings allege that Simpson eventually withdrew from Belan’s ownership group after expressing ‘vague concerns’ over the project’s marketing. While the filings claim Belan attempted to alleviate Simpson’s concerns throughout the next several months, he found himself unable to contact Simpson.
Belan and Novatrek Capital then learned that Canada Soccer Business and the Canadian Premier League had been negotiating with Alan separately in September 2020, with intent to award exclusive rights to his then-newly-incorporated Living Sky Sports and Entertainment. One month later, Prairieland CEO Mark Regier sent an email requesting that Novatrek Capital terminate its exclusive agreement, with Belan’s filing alleging that Prairieland and Simpson had been in talks about the stadium’s usage, which would violate the exclusivity agreement.
Regier has since retired from his role with the Prairieland Park Corporation in December 2022.
Belan claims that while Novatrek Capital still had the exclusive stadium location rights, he and his group were removed from the project. In March 2021, the Canadian Premier League formally announced that Simpson’s Living Sky Sports and Entertainment had been granted exclusive expansion rights for a team, pending the construction of a soccer-specific stadium set to be built at Prairieland Park.
Interestingly, Simpson had gone on record to reveal that his expansion deal with with the CPL was province-wide rather than being region-locked to Saskatoon, so while he has put forth plenty of effort to get a stadium going in Prairieland Park, he has explored preliminary discussions about building one in Regina as an alternative.
Belan and his company are seeking ten million dollars in damages, while the defendants – Al Simpson, Living Sky Sports and Entertainment, and the Prairieland Park Corporation – have 40 days to respond to the claims.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.
It’s also worth noting that the case does not name the Canadian Premier League, who were likely not privy to any potential stadium exclusivity agreement issues in the first place.