The CanPL Bits and Bites is an occasional article rounding up the latest Canadian Premier League News.
The biggest news dump on the CanPL in sometime came earlier this week when Paul Beirne appeared on SoccerToday with myself and Kevin Laramee. We wil unpack some of the biggest pieces of that in a moment, but if you haven't listened yet do so now. The interview starts at 30 min. I'm mostly talking about Pablo Zabaleta for the first 30 minutes.
Let's look deeper at the three biggest things to come out of that interview:
1 - A team in French Canada was promised
This shouldn't need to be explained, but in case you're new or still holding a Reform Party membership card from 1993, but you simply cannot have a national league in Canada in the year 2017 that ignores one of the major regions of the country. I'll avoid the politics of this (for the most part), but if you don't launch with a team in French Canada -- and preferably in Quebec proper -- you are alienating a significant part of the country and you'll be fighting uphill to gain the respect of that part of the country for many years to come, even if you do eventually get a team in there.
So, I've been long beating the drum on this. The CPL needs to also be the PLC.
Yet, we've long struggled to find evidence of interest in the league in Quebec (or even French Canada if you extend that to include Acadia; no Moncton group seems to be close). Ottawa might work in a pinch, but even there the Fury seem to be dragging their feet. Not only have the Impact been indifferent to the whole thing, it's been suggested that they might actually be hostile to it.
So Quebec looked like a long-shot. Until Paul answered my question.
"Yes there will be a team in Quebec, multiple maybe."
That got me to dig around yesterday. What I learned isn't particularly illuminating, but it was suggested to me that there are two groups that have made what was described to me as "preliminary" inquiries.
One group was, as expected, out of Quebec City. No one could say for sure who might be behind such a bid, but a good guess might be the money people behind the Laval Rouge et Or. Although not really soccer guys they have deep roots in Canadian (gridiron) football. If you're not familuar with the Rouge et Or story have a read. The thinking here is that they might be motivated to invest in soccer because of the possibility that it would 1) put them in good standing with CFL owners, thus making the possibility of bringing a CFL team to Quebec City more of a possibility and 2) it would help get PEPS stadium further expanded, also with CFL in mind.
Soccer fans may not want to celebrate such gridiron ambitions, but sometimes ambition makes for strange bedfellows. Laval is deep pocketed and the success of the Rouge et Or is truly remarkable. Soccer could do worse, so long as he was interested in seeing soccer succeed.
The second group was said to be the local ownership of the former Trois-Rivières Attack. The Attack were a reserve team of the Montreal Impact for several years. The Impact would not be involved.
2. Smaller cities than expected
When most of us think about the possibility of a Canadian league we tend to only consider the largest markets -- markets that we think of as "major league" (in a Canadian context). Basically markets that have NHL and/or CFL teams.
Paul suggested that markets as small as 200,000 could be targeted as potential sites for teams. Further to that he also suggested that creating local derbies was something that he wanted to see happen. That's significant in that it puts many cities on the list that we might currently look at as being "suburban" or part of another, larger centre.
For the sake of playing fantasy franchise let's look at the current markets that are over the magic 200,000 figure right now. Using Canadian census data there are currently 20 centres that are considered Census Metropolitan Areas (which is a fancy way to say "markets") with more than 200,000 people living in them.
Toronto (including Mississauga and Brampton) 5,928,0405; Montreal (Laval) 3,934,078; Vancouver (Surrey) 2,463,431; Calgary 1,392,609; Ottawa–Gatineau 1,254,919; Edmonton 1,321,426; Quebec City (Lévis) 800,296; Winnipeg 778,489; Hamilton (Burlington) 747,545; Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo 523,894; London 494,069; St. Catharines - Niagara (Niagara Falls, Welland) 406,074; Halifax 403,390; Oshawa (Whitby, Clarington) 379,848; Victoria (Saanich) 367,770; Windsor (Lakeshore) 329,144; Saskatoon 295,095; Regina 236,481; Sherbrooke (Magog)212,105; St. John's (Conception Bay South, Mount Pearl, Paradise) 205,955.
There are an additional 21 CMAs that are between 100,000 and 200,000, most of which are trending up in population as Canada gets increasingly more urban.
A couple things jump out about that. First, when you consider where top flight teams are in the rest of the world there is nothing inherently preventing Canada from finding enough markets. Particularly when considering an initial 10 or so teams. There are 10 markets with a half million or more people on that list, and London is just a shade away from making it 11.
That said, Canadians will need to adjust their thinking of what a professional market is away from a North American mindset into one that more closely resembles the rest of the world. Are we ready to see, say, Oshawa as a separate market to Toronto? It will be a challenge.
There is, however, an existing league that we do that in -- The Canadian Hockey League. The CHL is amateur in name only. It's highly successful. And it's probably a closer model to what a successful CanPL will look like than the CFL is.
3. We kinda, sorta know the league business structure
Not that it was shocking, but Paul confirmed that there will be a form of salary control in place. As stated, that there will be a cap (or budget, or whatever you want to call it) shouldn't surprise anyone. That's the North American way. It's also the only way that most of the potential owners would have agreed to become a part of the launch.
It shouldn't necessarily be seen as a bad thing that no one is looking to lose money forever in this league.
Reading between the lines of what Paul said -- and being careful not to put words in his mouth, the following is me reporting from other sources -- it's increasingly clear that the CanPL will launch in a way that very closely looks like MLS in its early years. The naive, purist reading this might not like this, but the reality is that some form of...let's call it collective...ownership is vital to getting through the early years.
What I've previously reported and have confirmed of late is that a major component of the CanPL business model will be equal shares (I'm told they will cost about $1.5 million for initial investors) in a marketing arm that will be similar in scope and purpose as SUM is to MLS. There's a good possibility that Don Garber's recent comments about opening a Canadian office of MLS is directly related to this part of the plan.
Will CanPL look exactly like MLS single entity? I doubt it. It will have the advantage of having 20 years of history to learn from. CanPL owners will know what did and didn't work in MLS 1.0 and will probably be a bit less centrally controlled than MLS was back in the early days.
Just not as fully independent as some might like.
Lastly, Paul suggested that we will know much more about the league in the next 90 days or so.
That might be the most exciting thing of all.
Edited by Duane Rollins