Eddies Name Former Oilers Executive Jeff Harrop As Club President
FC Edmonton has named former Oilers executive Jeff Harrop as its new Club President, effective immediately.
He replaces Eric Newendorp in the role, who arrived from Rayo OKC in November 2020 but was unable to ignite the Edmontonian community.
Harrop, an Edmonton resident himself, brings a lot of experience to the table: he departed the Oilers after six years on the NHL side’s executive leadership team, where he was the Senior Vice President of Marketing – an area in which the Eddies certainly need a lot of help.
Top of Harrop’s to-do list will be re-engaging an Edmonton fanbase that saw attendance dip below a thousand last season, a big part of which will come with improving the matchday experience at Clarke Stadium.
While he recognizes the importance of bringing in new fans to a stadium that hasn’t captured a lot of new eyes of late, he hopes to sit down with the existing fan group and get their takes on why the side has struggled to prove a big draw thus far.
“It’s really important for them and other stakeholders around the city to make sure that they know they’re being listened to, and more importantly help them help us shape the future,” he says.
There’s a lot of reasons why the Eddies have struggled, but Harrop is confident that the club can turn around its woes both on the pitch and off. Right now, he’s set to evaluate the business and marketing sides of things in order to improve the fan experience from all angles.
“You’ve got to earn that ticket,” he says, “that means from the moment that they buy the ticket and enter your facility, all the customer services elements, the food, the beverage, the quality of the seating, all of that is really important. Everything I saw last year, there’s some work to do be done. Lots of great things in place, but a lot more we can do.”
Of course, one of the biggest draws to any club is the product on the pitch. The club has struggled to produce in its CPL era, finishing dead last in 2020 and second from the bottom in 2021.
“Today is a new start,” said head coach Alan Koch, who is returning for a second season. “We are excited to embrace the challenges ahead. We are ready to put in the hard work and deliver another great season with a talented young team for the dedicated FC Edmonton fans. The 2022 season will be full of heart and an exciting new team.”
The FC Edmonton roster has seen a lot of turnover across the last few seasons, with this year’s roster rebuild set to be the largest yet: with a minimal salary budget, the club is essentially wiping the slate clean for 2022. Harrop describes Alan Koch as the perfect man to lead a young, scrappy underdog side into battle.
“It’s going to be a young, fast, playing-with-pace squad this year, for sure,” Harrop says of the roster rebuild. He’s looking to see a side that commits itself into each-and-every game, showing a never-say-die attitude that locals will identity with. He believes they’ll prove competitive and will surprise people with their quality, too.
“Edmontonians will get behind that: if there’s great action on the field and competitiveness, they will get behind teams and players. It’s up to folks on the business side to make sure that it’s not only happening on the pitch, but in the community as well. If you do those two things very well, you’re going to be successful in this city. It’s no question.”
Given that the club has been near-radio silent following the news that club owner Tom Fath was stepping to the side whilst the league seeks out new ownership, today’s news is a very positive development for the fanbase – especially given that other club owners are funding Eddies player salaries.
The repeatedly tough news was painting a clear picture of a club against the ropes. With Harrop’s hire, the Eddies look more likely to reach a new round and potentially bounce back from the brink.
To that end, Jeff told CBC Sports that his hire came with long-term expectations. He seems a sharp hire for the job – though he recognizes that there’s a long way to go.
“We need to build a brand in this city. That means building awareness of what the product is, and getting people to try it.”
Harrop points to Pacific FC as an example of a team based around a Canadian identity that has risen up the league rankings: the club finished bottom half in 2019, but then reached playoffs in 2020 before hoisting the North Star Shield in 2021. It’s a lofty ambition, but Eddies fans need something long-term to look forward to right now.
“There’s a lot of work to do to get there, but the reality is that we’re not going to be satisfied until every seat is filled and there are trophies abound with the club,” he says, “we’ll get to where Pacific got last year, multiple times. That’s the goal.”
While the outbound Eric Newendorp had set a goal of five years for the club to pick up its first North Star Shield, it remains to be seen how the club will perform under the guidance of Jeff Harrop instead. He points to the city’s ability to sell a combined 90,000 tickets for two World Cup Qualifiers as proof that Edmonton has a soccer appetite that can be tapped into, which will go a long way in making the club more attractive to a new buyer.
“I know firsthand that the passion for this game is equally strong at the grassroots level,” he says, “I look forward to getting started and helping bring more Edmontonians out to experience what is a fantastic product on the pitch at Clarke Stadium.”