How I Would Create a Canadian Premier League
By Stephane Brisson-Merrick, October 14, 2016


We have all heard the rumbles about a possible Canadian Premiere League (CPL) and are trying to figure out how it would work. There are some that say it will never happen, some say it will be tied in with the CFL, and others say that, for the moment, the current system is fine. Some rules affect us in growing this sport since we are closely tied to the US on this. As it stands, in the USL/NASL/MLS,  Canadians are considered internationals when playing in the US; however, when Americans play in Canada, they are considered domestic. This rule is currently being looked into to change it so its equal for players from both countries.   In this text, I will be proposing a few avenues of how this league should run in terms of financing, teams, and possibility of a promotion-relegation system. Please remember that this is an opinion piece and not solely factual so please enjoy.

As we look at how the league is setup in terms of locations, we need to think facilities, travel logistics, and population centre. At the very beginning of the CPL, a quick-fix, logical approach to this issue would be for the CPL to use the CFL to their advantage in a manner similar to the partnerships between the Whitecaps-BC Lions and Fury-RedBlacks. Let's assume that the CFL is on board: better work will be needed to ensure CPL and CFL schedules don't clash from the start. This removes the small chance of CFL lines on game day.

At this point, some people are probably thinking :“Okay!  What about the MLS teams?” I have to admit, this is an issue: for the CPL to work, the league will need a team in these markets. One idea may be to remove these MLS teams from the Voyageurs cup. Bear in mind that Wales has three of their teams in the English FA Cup. A few Ukrainian teams play in the Russian, Austrian teams in  German Leagues, New Zealand in the Australian Leagues and a few Caribbean countries in the USL. I am against this as they are part of the romance of the cup competitions. The MLS teams will always be an issue since CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) doesn't have the pull with MLS as the USSF (United Sates Soccer Federation) does. The MLS is set up tot develop the game in the USA not Canada.  MLS has no inclination to expand the league into Canada anyways, they already have the three biggest markets in Canada. Also when Vancouver Whitecaps entered the MLS, the mandatory content for Canadian based players was dropped. 

Other locations I have in mind, besides all the current CFL location,s are Quebec City, Halifax, and London ON. There is an argument for Moncton instead of Halifax, but I opt for Halifax as it is the travel hub of the East coast so let's use this to our advantage. Quebec City.....well, this could bring back the Quebec Rivalry (think Nordiques vs Habs) and possibly get them a CFL team. As for London,  it is a University town, is close to the boarder, and is easily accessible through travel. London was actually my last-minute team idea. This is just the start to using facilities and cities that are open to the idea. Remember: this is only the beginning of the CPL, so the league can grow.

Growing the league can and will be a difficult problem to handle. First off, we need to establish a lower-division provincial league such as already exist in the QSL and OPDL. Rules must be in place for teams looking for promotion including permanent changing facilities, quality fields, and stands. Off the top of my head, we could maybe look at the Terry Fox Facility  here in Ottawa. The facility can hold up to two thousand, has changing facilities. The facilities can be improved upon to grow and possibly expand. For argument's sake, let's say BC, Western Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), Ontario, Quebec, The Maritimes and the Territories each had their own provincial league. Once all these leagues exist, how do players get promoted to the CPL? The winner of each league enters into a tournament like the Memorial Cup. Winners of the tournament would be promoted to the CPL if the club organisation meets the minimum requirement for facilities. Once the criteria have been met, they can be promoted to help fill the league; once the league is filled and there is high demand for promotion/relegation, we do a two up ,two down scenario. The winner of the lower division replaces the 20th-place team in the CPL; the 2nd place team will have a playoff game with 19th-place team to determine if a team gets promoted or not. That would make playoff and relegation fights much more entertaining . Of course, this would take at least eight to ten years minimum before it could happen after the CPL would be initially set up.

This is all well and good, but how about financing the league? Money is an issue in any situation. I'm not looking for oil barons to buy a team. We would need league-wide sponsors in both divisions to help cut down costs such as travel and lodging.  Maybe alcohol?  A Canadian brewery or wine distillery? Also, if there is a sponsor in the hotel industry, say Travel Lodge, away fans showing game days tickets could also get a small discount on accommodations. Travel with Greyhound, West Jest, Via Rail, and maybe even enterprise could be sponsors as well with similar deals for travelling teams and fans. A national broadcaster must be found. I, for one, am in favour of using CBC as it is basic and accessible. Look at the work they have they done with the Olympics and the World Cup. They can't offer the deal that Bell or Rogers can make but I am looking at getting the vast market involved. CBC streams their programming online for free, it is included in basic TV packages. This will increase the chance that local people can see the games at small pubs that cannot afford the specialty TV channels. Let's also use local media to our advantage. Hand out media passes to local media and reputable bloggers. This would increase the chances of your team being mentioned in local news and around social media. Taking a page out of the Australian books would be a good idea: getting a sponsor for the naming rights of the league itself. We will hear how there must be a salary cap, which I don't agree with. I suggest placing a debt cap system, like financial fair play but actually enforced. Profit sharing will have to be used but maybe a different version. For the first five years, full profit sharing, and for the final five years the percentage falls to zero. This will help the teams when they first start giving them some start up capital. Whenever a new team joins the league before the promotion relegation system, they will be given their allotted share as per previously mentioned. I know people would suggest maybe a kit deal but I am in favour of letting the clubs pick their kit dealer. Just look at the MLS and how mundane their kits are. Allowing clubs to have a say in their supplier and design gives the  club and fans a sense of individuality and independence regardless of how small it is. On the idea of merchandising, I do suggest  a basic T-Shirt design, cap, scarf and Jersey that can be sold from a central warehouse while the clubs can carry more variety themselves.Of course, this is all hypothetical and my own theory and opinion on how to create our own CPL. If we want this sport to grow in Canada, we need our own league and we nee to set up a lower division system to feed the higher division. For these things to happen, we would need owners that have a vision for a minimum of 20 years. A Canadian content rule will need to be applied and hopefully no DP rule. To recap: we would need the cities with CFL teams, some form of lower division must be created and maintained, and financing for the league needs to be creative. For this league to work, we, as Canadians, must be proud and make it our own. At the moment, the only Canadian league is the CFL: not even our junior hockey leagues are purely Canadian. We need to grow some Canadian pride and attend the games, regardless of the skill level, and support local football. This will be the only way for this league to grow and become better if it ever exists.