The Case for the #CanPL in #Winnipeg


My last post on the Canadian Premier League, I discussed key factors in making the Canadian Premier League a viable and firm professional sports option. This time, I look at my hometown of Winnipeg, and why the Canadian Premier League would fit perfectly like a goalkeeper’s glove this time around if all the ingredients are in place at  a possible 2018 kickoff.

A city of approximately 718,000 (793,000 in the greater metropolitan area (GMA) ), Winnipeg has grown since its population of 627,400 (677,000 GMA) when the old Canadian Soccer League played its final season in 1992.

So why now? Why would professional soccer work this time in Winnipeg, compared to 1992?

Let’s look at some factors.

The first is Winnipeggers understand soccer more now and have been supportive of big games when played here. Over 28,000 showed up in May of 2014 for an international friendly between the Canadian and United States women’s soccer team. Meanwhile, the FIFA Women’s World Cup was a huge success here, attracting large audiences during June 2015.

 

FIFA World Cup 2015 US Australia

US vs. Australia at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg June 8, 2015. Via Adam Johnston Instagram

 

Another case for a successful Canadian pro soccer team in Winnipeg: the possible backing of two heavy hitters: The Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and True North Sports and Entertainment (TNSE) (who own the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets), according to Canadian soccer blogger Duane Rollins. While I question the management decision of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, at times with their football operations, having a playable field with Investors Group Field is critical for the new Canadian Premier League team. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football Club get much-needed dates, outside of Manitoba Bisons football, Winnipeg Rifles, and the odd concert. Factor in around an additional 7-10 games yearly at 2,500-4,500 Average per Canadian Premier League game (estimation) gives some modest financial muscle for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. While it would be nice to sell out Investors Group Field for a Canadian Premier League game, in the beginning, having a healthy crowd to the games is critical in encouraging Winnipeggers in coming out.

If TNSE is involved, it will add some marketing oomph to a brand new team. Ever since the Winnipeg Jets have returned to Winnipeg since 2011, True North’s branding of the team has been remarkable. They are worth $350 million US and have increased their market value by 20% since they were known as the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010-2011. You can’t go anywhere in Winnipeg without knowing what the Jets logo is. With TNSE scheduled to open up a downtown square, similar to Toronto’s Maple Leaf Square, having a soccer team to broaden its sports empire and attracting a larger demographic of Winnipeg sports fans would not hurt given the changing demographics of Canadian sports.

However, to ensure the future success of pro soccer in Winnipeg, some things will have to be addressed.

First, as I have previously on this blog and social media, you need a supporters club. I won’t go too much into that as I have discussed it and made a hard case for it. You just can’t attract suburban soccer moms from bedroom communities like West St. Paul.

My second point is the need to get our local media to embrace fully the possibilities of what a Canadian Premier League can do for Winnipeg. While Winnipeg has produced some of the most well-known soccer media personalities in Canada (Bobby McMahon with his work with Fox Sports World and Rogers Sportsnet, to Jerrad Peters from the Winnipeg Free Press), the challenge is going to ensure the club has a mainstream media presence amongst a rabid hockey town. Having dedicated reporters from both the Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Sun would help. Winnipeg’s sports radio station TSN 1290, by going after radio broadcast rights along with a weekly phone in should engage Winnipeg Canadian Premier League supporters.  Local television rights would be useless, considering if there is a national broadcaster showing all Canadian Premier League games.

But perhaps one last challenge is let’s face it; Winnipeggers are cheap. We are cheaper than cheap. Winnipeggers want a bargain. We flock to places like Dollarama, Dollar Tree, and Giant Tiger searching for deals (try going to the Dollarama at Portage and Donald daily). If Canadian Premier League ticket prices are affordable (For example 11 games for Ottawa Fury fall season tickets are as low as $96.00 for the supporters group section; $137.39 for the regular adult section), then that’s a bonus to get extra butts in the seats between May through October.

It’s not going to be a slam dunk. But this not 1992. It’s 2016. Lots changed. Demographics, the Internet, and globalization have helped spread “The Beautiful Game,” across Canada and here in Winnipeg.

 

FIFA WWC 2015

2015 FIFA Women’s Worl Cup Pre-Game Ecuador Vs. Japan June 16, 2015 at Investors Group Field Winnipeg, Manitoba. By Adam Johnston via Instagram

 

Let me know what you think. Do you think pro soccer can succeed this time in Winnipeg? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or by email at adamjwpg@mymts.net.

 

 

 

Canadian Premier League Or Bust! #CanPL


It’s coming…. Eventually. A full fledged pro soccer league in Canada (Or rumors of it).

Last February, an article from the Hamilton Spectator leaked suggest the 6-8 team league would feature a mix of Canadian Football League and National Hockey League ownership, would kick off by 2018.

Once this league is a go, it’s going to be a dream come true for Canadian soccer fans, who have been craving for a full time, top-tier professional soccer in the Great White North (except for Major League Soccer in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal).

Remember the last experiment? The Canadian Soccer League between 1987-1992? Remember the Sunday night game of the week on TSN featuring Vic Rauter and Graham Leggat? Those were the days. Eventually, the league died, with the Winnipeg Fury winning the last championship in 1992.

Now, nearly 25 years later after the CSL’s demise, a Canadian pro soccer league has a much better chance of succeeding now, than in 1992. Why?

Globalization has changed how we perceived soccer in some aspects of North American culture. While the big four leagues dominate (NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA), MLS is growing. Market analysts suggest millennials, and the Latino‘s as key demographics in soccer, its easy to understand why “The Beautiful Game” just keeps growing.

However, I don’t think this will be a slam dunk for the Canadian Premier League to capture the hearts of all 35.16 million Canucks, right away. Hockey remains the dominant sport in Canada, and likely will for the foreseeable future. A lot of work is needed to ensure a successful start, and for a prosperous future.

  1. A national television contract announced on Day one. Yes, you need television. It’sI would predict TSN, to be a major partner in this. TSN recently signed on with the Canadian Soccer Association to show national team and Amway Cup championship games. I would expect a TSN-type broadcaster to show perhaps 1-3 games a week. Ideally, it would be great if the CBC, could sign on as well, and do a “Game of the Week” during the summer time when the NHL is in summertime hibernation. Nonetheless, just having these games streamed online is not enough. If this league credibility among the media on day one, a major television contract is needed.
  2. Second key point is creating a supporters club culture. It took years for MLS to understand this, and now it’s starting to pay off. Clubs including NYCFC, Portland, Montreal, and Seattle have vibrant supporters sections, which add flavor to a soccer game. Look, it’s good to target suburban soccer moms, but at the end of the day, a league without its supports sections is a dead duck.

People are more accepting about this great game here in Canada in 2016. It’s going to be a grind starting on day one. Collaboration between league management, owners, fans, will ensure success. Getting the message out to the Canadian mainstream media, (who despite becoming warmer to soccer, still is blind sometimes) about why this league is the “Real Deal”, will help to build on positive vibes. Look, this is the best shot we got in making professional soccer a success. Once the announcement drops, let’s all get down to work and make this the best league possible.

What do you think about the Canadian Premier League’s chances of survival when (or if it starts) in 2018. Connect with my on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.