Peterborough Aims For Pro Football With Electric City FC
Peterborough is getting a local football club, and it arrives with ambitious hopes of using League1 Ontario as a stepping stone up to the Canadian Premier League.
Enter Electric City FC.
The Peterborough, Ontario-based team held its official unveiling at the Silver Bean Cafe yesterday afternoon, revealing its ownership group, team colours, and the aforementioned plan to establish itself at the League1 Ontario level before an ambitious end goal of landing a Canadian Premier League franchise.
Helping launch the fledgling side is its inaugural Club President Rob Jenkins, the former Cavalry FC director of football operations. He’s no stranger to ambitious start-ups, having helped USL2 side Calgary Foothills launch in 2015 before doing the same with the CPL’s Cavalry FC four years later. He has also been involved in gameday operations for the Canadian men’s national team, too.
He got his first taste of Peterborough last summer, where he was surprised at the strong sporting culture in what he had first presumed may be too small a market for a prospective Canadian Premier League team. His initial research and discussions proved positive, and he reportedly turned down opportunities to be involved with other potential CPL expansion bids to help lead professional football to Peterborough.
Electric City FC is led by a community-centric ownership group that features Gregory Couch as majority owner, with local investors Alex Bridal, Alvaro de la Guardia, Beth McClelland, Burton Lee, Jon Gillan, Kyle McDonald, Paul Bennet, Mo Von Roeder, Neil Morton, Richard Wood, and Siam Grobler comprising the rest of the group.
They’ve already submitted an application to field a team in League1 Ontario for 2022, though they won’t find out if this bid is accepted until late fall. A women’s team is slated to follow in 2023, with Electric City FC planning to field reserve teams for both sides ahead of an eventual bid to join the country’s only professional domestic football league, the Canadian Premier League, in the near future.
We want to electrify the city. If we can create a great atmosphere and great support in the community over those two years, [the] CPL could be something we look at as early as 2024. It’s very ambitious but with the community support I’ve seen I think it’s something we could potentially strive for.Electric City FC Club President Rob Jenkins
As reported by the Peterborough Examiner, Electric City FC got its start through Peterborough resident Keaton Robbins, a journalist who once covered the domestic soccer beat. He initially set out with solely League1 Ontario aspirations for Peterborough, but these grew into something more after conversations with Jenkins.
Keaton has done his homework on North American sports franchises, and believes that the key to success at this level lies in homegrown supporters who have a passion for local teams. He looks to Halifax – where CPL supporters routinely filled up Wanderers Grounds in 2019 – as a comparable city.
Halifax gets 6,000 to 7,000 fans per game. It’s the second smallest CPL market with the best attendance. Halifax has the third highest homegrown percentage in Canada behind St. John’s, N.L. and Quebec City. Peterborough is seventh.Keaton Robbins
The sports scene is Peterborough certainly doesn’t lack support, with OHL side Peterborough Petes and the Lakers lacrosse team averaging between 2,500 to 3,000 fans on gamedays, which is a number higher than some Canadian Premier League clubs recorded in 2019.
Robbins stated that the correlation between the support for a professional team and homegrown percentage is something one can take to the bank, and evidently the ownership group agrees with this assessment.
Jenkins is confident that the club’s first planned steps into League1 Ontario can see Electric City FC record similar, if slightly less, attendance to those other local sides as the club finds its footing in the area. It won’t be the only League1 Ontario team with Canadian Premier League aspirations, with CPL commissioner David Clanachan offering his hopes that the ownership group in Peterborough finds success.
The Canadian Premier League has eight teams at the moment, with an expansion side in Saskatoon just one stadium location away from joining as the ninth. As per Clanachan, the top flight domestic league hopes to expand to 14-16 franchises ahead of when Canada helps host the 2026 World Cup, and that fits an ambitious timeline presented by Electric City FC.
Clanachan was candid in that he believes the fledgling side has the right structure and strategy to reach those heights, though it has a long way to go.
Do I believe Peterborough by itself has enough population for a pro team? If it was in England, you’d have no problem because the sport is so over the top. You can get 30,000 fans in a 50,000 person city there. Having said that, the catchment area we’re talking about [in Peterborough] is somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 people within a 30- to 45-minute drive. It works. It really does.David Clanachan
The first step will see the club establish itself at the semi-professional League1 Ontario level, which features more teams than the Canadian Premier League and a talent pool that routinely sees players launch themselves up to professional heights.
The newly-minted side has branded itself yellow and black, a theme which Jenkins said fit Peterborough while retaining an identity that separates the club found existing local teams like the Petes and the Lakers. According to him, the colours represent the hard-working, industrial heritage of the city, while also inspiring growth and ambition for future generations.
If all goes to plan, those future generations will grow up with a Canadian Premier League team in their own backyard.
I really wanted to do something big and incredible and leave a big impact on the community. I really hope we can look back and say this was day one when this team became another community asset that makes people proud to be from Peterborough.Rob Jenkins
The Peterborough-based side will be hosting a logo launch party this Friday at the Euphoria Spa rooftop patio, with fans invited to attend at 6:00PM EST. A stadium announcement is expected to come in the coming months, though any roster and coaching announcements aren’t expected to arrive until well after League1 Ontario approval arrives and the 2022 season approaches.
Fans interested in reading more about Electric City FC can do so here.