Edmonton, Canada (March 21, 2019) — Wednesday evening Paul Beirne met with FC Edmonton fans and supporters at Ritchie Market for a question and answer session. Fans asked several good questions.
Paul Beirne, CPL president, meets with FC Edmonton fans and supporters
Asked first was, “Why did the Canadian Premier League go with the split season?” Beirne responded that there were several reasons for the split season. The CPL is committed to a no playoff format.
The no playoff format is unusual when compared to other professional leagues in North America. However, it’s not unusual for football around the world.
The league is also progressing towards a promotion and relegation format in the future. Until promotion and relegation makes sense, a split season helps to ensure every game matters. Also, there is less risk of one team running away with the league title by July. The split puts a pause on everything, allows the teams to regroup and start again.
This pause, Beirne said, aligns closely with the FIFA summer international transfer window to allow clubs to sign or loan players from other nations. Meanwhile, approximately 30 nations use the split season format, which is common in Central and South America.
In addition to allowing teams to regroup, with the tables starting fresh July 2, it keeps each game interesting. There will be a tighter spread between top and bottom teams with few games in each of the season versus one long season.
Beirne also explained that the way the schedule was setup is that each game is at a different time, so fans of the league will not miss other games by going to watch their own team. Exceptions to this are the final days of each of the Spring and Fall Seasons where they have purposely set up to have all the games concurrently. The outcomes of those games are expected to impact which team finishes in which place.
Challenges for Starting a New Soccer League
One of the biggest challenges, Beirne said, to starting a professional soccer league in Canada is infrastructure. Outside of the nine cities with Canadian Football League stadiums, there are not a lot of outdoor stadiums available for professional soccer.
For the seven teams beginning play this spring, five out of seven had to either build a new facility or renovate an existing one to get them ready for professional soccer.
One thing that surprised Beirne was just how well developed soccer is in Canada. He said there is “tremendous infrastructure across the country” in terms of leagues and development of players and youth.
When asked how to define success for the new league, Beirne explained that each club will have their own definition of success. He went on to talk about the development of youth and the focus on local talent each team has. “There are a ton of locals on every club. That is an important part of our success.”
He explained that many of the league’s players have never played professional before, and that this first season “will make or break them.” He expects the quality of play in three or four years to be very different than it is today — not to say it will not be good or will not be exciting this year.
Approximately 40 percent of the players this year are rookies, which underlines that the league is “committed to youth development.”
Each team will have a minimum of 20 players on their rosters. Seven roster spots can be imports. That leaves a minimum of 13 that must be Canadian.
Of the starting 11 for each match, six players on the pitch must be Canadian at kick-off.
Players less than 21 years of age for each team must play a combined minimum of 1,000 minutes during the season. This is to ensure youth development remains a focus in the Canadian Premier League.
MediaPro and Broadcasting
MediaPro has acquired the rights for 10 years. They will be looking after the production of all televised games for the CPL, Canadian National Teams and Canadian Championships.
How will you be able to watch your favorite team? Beirne said that he “suspects [games] will be in multiple places. Likely online and over-the-air.” It is up to MediaPro to determine how or who will broadcast the games — themselves or selling the broadcast rights to others
Games will be in high definition with full commentary. Each game will be an eight-camera shoot allowing for multiple views and angles throughout the match.
Future of the CPL
Looking into the future, Beirne expects to have a ten-team league within two or three years. The league wants to reach 16 teams by 2026. By this time the league is looking to have a division two league, which will allow for the previously discussed promotion and relegation. The goal is 12 teams in the second tier.
The ideal size of city that the league wants to expand into is communities with a population of 300,000 or greater. Part of the reason for teams choosing names that usually did not utilize the city moniker is to allow for more than one team in some urban areas. This has the added benefit of choosing names that connect with the team’s fans and communities.
When asked if League 1 Ontario is expected to become part of the relegation and promotion of teams from and to the CPL, there was some indications it could be, but nothing affirmative. The reason behind the purchase of L1O is that the owners are committed to development.
He said there is a gap in Canada between youth and professional soccer, and L1O is a great way to fill that gap. The league is not looking to make any changes in L1O in the first year of ownership. After the first year, they will be assess what needs to be changed.
A goal of the league is to aspire to have similar leagues regionally. There have been multiple conversations with different regions on what that might look like.
One of the final questions asked was, “What are they playing for?” in reference to the league champions. Will it be a trophy or something else?
“All will be revealed,” replied Beirne.
FC Edmonton Merchandise
Much awaited Macron branded FC Edmonton merchandise will be available soon. Four stores in Edmonton will have gear next week. Not shared with attendees was which stores will carry the gear. United Sport & Cycle has been the team store up till now, so it would make sense they will carry the gear next week. For those camping out to be first in line, your best bet is United until further information is released.
Shown off on Wednesday evening were toques and beanies featuring FC Edmonton patch, CPL patch and white Macron stitching on black material.