Jeff Paulus Talks CPL Expansion
FC Edmonton head coach Jeff Paulus is a man who speaks his opinion: he hasn’t been afraid to dive into politics on Twitter, call out inaccuracies, or even slam officiating in the past. The well-articulated gaffer recently spoke with with Thomas Nef, a solo reporter from the Edmonton area, about his views on expansion in the Canadian Premier League.
Paulus has been a long-time believer that a professional domestic league will be a game-changer for Canadian football, and so far the inaugural season of FC Edmonton‘s new league has been exactly that: plenty of Canadian players are now getting the chance to consistently test themselves at the professional level, with the resulting high level of play even catching some of the coaches by surprise.
The burgeoning league is filled with expansion rumours right now: the most concrete of them seems to be a Laval-based team headed by former Canadian international Alex Bunbury, and a Saskatoon expansion club put together by Joe Belan’s ownership group. It’s looking more like these won’t arrive until 2021, but Paulus thinks they won’t be the only clubs to arrive by that date:
We are a healthy and wealthy country, and I think there’s no reason why we can’t achieve these goals: 3-5 teams by 2021. I think that’s 100% doable. From everything I’ve heard, that’s probably going to happen. I’m not sure about next year how many, but certainly within two years there’s already clubs that have come forward. We’re already hearing names now that seem pretty firm, pretty good rumours. I’d be delighted. There’s so much room for growth.Jeff Paulus
Canadian Premier League comissioner David Clanachan has admitted he’d be happy with just one expansion team for 2020, with ownership groups evidently hard-pushed to find suitable stadium locations to operate in a top-flight professional league. It’s one of the reasons that Mississauga doesn’t have a team right now, while long-term rumoured projects like Durham would need to wait for significant construction developments.
That being said, Clanachan has also indicated that he’d like to eventually install a second division that operates below the Canadian Premier League, with a promotion and relegation system shuttling a few clubs between the two. Clanachan says he doesn’t need markets of a half a million to support clubs, and that’s a sentiment that is echoed by Paulus:
The model this thing has been set up by, I think it allows the CPL to go into cities by about 100,000. I think we’re accessible now to cities that maybe weren’t big enough to house one of the other major league sports. Listen, soccer, football, it’s a community game, and we can get into mid-size communities now and really show the love of the sport.Jeff Paulus
A big factor in this is that, while it’s certainly no small endeavor to set up a professional football club in Canada, it requires a lot less capital than an NHL, MLB, or NBA team, which requires a massive home ground and much larger salary caps, which means only large cities can make such a venture sustainable.
FC Edmonton had once plied its trade in the NASL, with club co-owner Tom Fath saying that the Canadian Premier League is much easier on the wallet compared to operating in the US-based league. The newborn league has kept its salary cap, expansion fees, and player contracts away from public eye, but one general consensus seems to be that operating a club in Canada’s professional league comes at less cost than operating a professional club south of the border
At the end of the day, it means that the Canadian Premier League – or a future second division – can touch on communities that other professional sporting ventures simply can’t do in a sustainable manner.
I think the CPL is going to change the game. I’ve said that a million times, that the CPL will change the game in our country and it’ll change the game because we’ll be in many communities that don’t have other major league professional sports available to them.Jeff Paulus
Fans can expect plenty of more expansion rumours as the first-ever Canadian Premier League season enters its final months. There are already new rumours of a Langley-based club set for 2021, while Alex Bunbury has said that he expects a Quebec City CPL team to arrive in the near future, too.
Clanachan himself has said the CPL needs a team in Ottawa, and plenty of eyes will be watching the Fury to see if it gets sanctioned for another year of USL action after 2019 comes to a close. Whatever happens, it’d be nice to see the CPL get a new team for 2020 so fans can see some progress ahead of 2021, a year which seems likely to bring significant growth to the professional league.
Whatever happens, Paulus is certainly confident that many more clubs are en route, and they’ll help grow the beautiful game in Canada well ahead of when the country hosts the 2026 World Cup – which is another factor that should trigger a massive spike of interest in football north of the border.
Source: Thomas Nef