Ottawa Fury Suspends Operations
This story is developing. More to follow.
The Ottawa Sports And Entertainment Group (OSEG) has officially confirmed that the only Canadian team in the USL Championship, the Ottawa Fury, will be suspending operations.
The decision came amidst a dispute between OSEG and CONCACAF, the governing body which wanted the club to switch over to the Canadian Premier League earlier this year. In a letter addressed to its fans, Ottawa Fury revealed it had been unable to acquire sanctioning in time to play in the USL for the 2020 season.
While the Canada Soccer Association had sanctioned the club for 2020, CONCACAF and the USSF did not. Canada Soccer, at the same time, rejected a multi-year sanctioning request from the Fury.
In a letter addressed to fans, Ottawa Fury President John Pugh blamed politics for the demise of the only professional football club in the nation’s capital, while OSEG President Mark Goudie accused the governing bodies of intentionally ‘dragging their feet’ regarding sanctioning so that the Fury would miss the USL Championship deadline.
The Fury ownership group has confirmed that it will consider relocating the franchise to the United States.
The announcement of the club’s shuttering comes just after the club’s best-ever season in the USL, which saw it make the USL postseason for the first time. The club parted ways with head coach Nikola Popovic one week ago, suggesting something significant was going on behind the scenes.
The Ottawa-based club has long struggled to find a way to get attendance trending upwards at TD Place, which OSEG envisioned as a year-round venue for OSEG-owned clubs like the Ottawa Redblacks and the Ottawa 67’s. With the Fury evidently turning out be too expensive of an endeavor – especially given the recent sanctioning drama – the ownership group has decided to cease operations entirely, closing the doors to a club that has run for some fifteen years.
The Ottawa Fury as fans know it got its start as a PDL franchise in 2005, helping to develop Canadian talent from a venture based around a pre-existing Women’s Team which became the USL W-League champions in 2012. A year prior to that, the city was awarded an expansion NASL franchise 2011, with the PDL side continuing to operate until 2013, when it was revealed that the Ottawa Fury’s name and legacy would be carried forward into the NASL by OSEG, signalling a new era for the club.
The OSEG-backed club would play in the NASL for three seasons, though in 2016 – amidst speculation that the club was losing about 2 million dollars per year in the now-defunct league – the club announced it would be switching leagues to the USL Championship.
It was here that the club announced an affiliation with the Montreal Impact and brought in head coach Nikola Popovic. Just one year after joining the USL Championship, the OSEG publicly confirmed that it would not be joining the just-announced Canadian Premier League, and played through the 2018 USL Championship season where it finished in tenth place, four points outside of playoffs.
In 2019, despite being sanctioned by the CSA and USSF to operate in a foreign league, continental governing body CONCACAF attempted to desanction the Fury, believing that it should be operating in the Canadian Premier League. The capital city club ended up retaining its rights to play as a USL franchise this year, but it was believed that the club would face an uphill battle to stay in the USL come 2020. This has now proven to be case.
While the commissioner of the Canadian Premier League continually extended an olive branch and stated that the league would make changes to specifically welcome the Ottawa-based club, Fury general manager Julian De Guzman stated that there were still too many unanswered questions surrounding Canada’s new domestic professional league.
With OSEG now choosing to suspend operations rather than switching leagues for the third time in recent history, there are many professional players and staff members who now need to find new homes within the sporting world. It’s a massive loss to the Canadian soccer community, and we here at Northern Tribune hope everyone who called the Fury home will land on their feet following the suspension of operations.