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SK Summer Soccer Series Attendance

Over 3,000 Attend Saskatchewan ‘CPL Litmus Test’

By on May 6, 2019 0 4262 Views

This past Saturday wasn’t just a big day for the Canadian Premier League, which saw three different matches bring in thousands of fans across Canada. In Saskatchewan, the day also marked the first game of the SK Summer Soccer Series, an event which has been described by Canadian entrepreneur Joe Belan as a litmus test to see if the province can sustain a professional soccer team (we’ll detail his ownership group later this week).

A team of Saskatoon Selects took on Calgary Foothills FC in a chilly evening game, falling 2-1 and smacking the crossbar in the game’s dying minutes. Despite the weather, the turnout was good: a total attendance of 3,067 football fans showed up to support Belan’s vision of bringing a pro team to the region – a bigger crowd than Pacific FC pulled for its midweek game against Valour. While the game took place at SMF Field, Belan’s potential CPL team will likely look across the river for a permanent stadium solution.

The question now, however, is if those numbers can consistently stay. There are more games to unfold throughout the summer, and if Belan and his ownership group see that Saskatchewan can keep seats filled for a non-CPL side, than it’s likely the turnout will be even better for a fully-fledged professional soccer club.

It’s been a good start, with the crowd from this Saturday already exceeding Belan’s initial expectations. Sitting down with him a month ago, he revealed that his earliest vision of the SK Summer Soccer Series was much more modest in size:

Joe Belan: “For the first event, we were initially looking to have it at a different venue and start more modestly, targeting it at an audience of twelve hundred to fifteen hundred. Now, we’ve upgraded the facility. It’s a lot more professional. It’s got a lot more amenities and infrastructure. Now our base case target is to get to twenty two, twenty four hundred.”

Belan admits that the business world he’s grown accustomed to – and excelled at, given his high profile tenure with Goldman Sachs and his own investment firm – is quite different than the sports world he left behind as a teenager. By combining his knowledge of both worlds, he’s willing to roll up his sleeves, crunch the numbers behind the SK Summer Soccer Series turnout, and make adjustments where needed.

From the outside, it’s difficult to see what kind of numbers define success for Belan. As he puts it, he sees three possible outcomes from the SK Summer Soccer Series, which will ultimately determine the fate of his Canadian Premier League venture:

Joe Belan: “There’s probably three potential scenarios: one is it’s a total bust, we aren’t able to really capture people’s imagination and get them motivated and wanting to be part of this movement. At the other end of the scale you have a raging success way in excess of our expectations. Our hope is that maybe it’s somewhere in between, where there’s some very positive signals, there’s some things that we need to re-evaluate and improve upon, and then come back and introduce Version 2. It’s just as if you’re developing a software program or any other type of new product: there’s multiple versions of it. You learn from your mistakes and go back to the lab. You fix it, and then you come back out. I think it’s a similar process here.

For Belan, this process isn’t hindered by a time requirement. Belan and his group will launch if and when the environment presents a stable opportunity to do so, even if that means a a multi-year wait.

Joe Belan: “We need that period of development or incubation in ultimately bringing a new product to the market. First-off, there’s never been this in Saskatchewan. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s hockey and [CFL] territory. This is something brand new, but it has a lot of positive undercurrents that are helping it – the growth of the sport, great demographics, great participation, all of it. So the pieces are there. It’s a matter of connecting all the dots and trying to build a momentum around the team.”

With over 3,000 fans showing up in the cold to support a Saskatoon Selects side against the Foothills, that aforementioned momentum is starting off strong. It’ll be interesting to see if the SK Summer Soccer Series can keep this early momentum going, and what adjustments Belan will make to help achieve this.

Source: SK Summer Soccer Series (via Twitter)

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