Editorial — It has been roughly only two months since Ottawa Fury FC folded operations. They folded because of sanctioning issues with US Soccer and CONCACAF. A month later, Stuart Mac confirmed rumors of a European ownership group interested in the Canadian capital.
This European investor, according to Dan Riccio, is Atlético Madrid. Atlético Madrid is arguably known as one of the best teams in Spain. They finished second in La Liga last year, only behind Barcelona. According to Duane Rollins, the name for the new team was already thought out.
“Been told that the Ottawa #CanPL team would take the name Atlético Ottawa (in line with @atletienglish’s LigaMX team, Atlético de San Luis) and the preference would be to also replicate the iconic strips of Atleti, perhaps with a little black added to reflect Ottawa colours,” he wrote.
This is a huge coup for the Canadian Premier League. The young league is entering only its second year this year. This also explains why there has not been a CPL schedule released this year. There can be a few reasons why Atlético Madrid is interested in this venture. This includes the nation’s capital losing their soccer team.
Four Reasons why Ottawa is Getting a CPL Team
Ottawa and Atlético Madrid
Atlético Madrid now owns two teams in CONCACAF, they also own Liga MX side Atlético San Luis. Both San Luis and Canada’s capital lost teams before Atlético Madrid took over. Rollins elaborates on this point.
“It is worth pointing out the similarities between the situation in Ottawa and San Luis when @atletienglish came in and formed @AtletideSanLuis. Atleti looks for markets that have lost their teams to move into. Makes sense as they aren’t burning local bridges w/ re-brand.”
Many teams with bigger leagues and brands have looked at getting talent from outside of their own country or even continent. For example, the talent pool of Atlético Madrid can draw from Madrid is maxed out. They are looking for talent to put on their squad, which will also benefit Canada’s capital. They will most likely get some players from Spain to play professionally in the nation’s capital. Other reasons for Atlético Madrid being interested in Canada’s capital are Mediapro and Lansdowne Park.
Streaming services are one of the fastest emerging platforms in the world. Mediapro is a Spanish company that has created a Canadian subsidiary called Mediapro Canada. Mediapro Canada is the owners of OneSoccer, a streaming service that allows fans to watch things like the Canadian Premier League, the Canadian Men’s and Women’s teams, and the Canadian Championship.
It’s reasonable to connect the dots and see how Atlético Madrid got interested in Canada’s capital. The Canadian Premier League, unlike the Mexican soccer leagues, is still in its infancy stage. It also shows that the CPL is doing something right. However, Spain’s connections to the CPL is not enough to bring a team in the nation’s capital. Atlético Madrid must also be impressed with the stadium in the nation’s capital.
Ottawa – Lansdowne Park
The new Lansdowne Park came in 2014. That year, OSEG created two teams with the CFL’s RedBlacks and Ottawa Fury FC at TD Place Stadium. They also own the junior hockey league team the Ottawa 67’s at TD Place Arena at Lansdowne Park.
Lansdowne Park is a 40-acre urban park, historic sports, exhibition and entertainment facility in the nation’s capital. Furthermore, Atlético Madrid is interested in a Canadian Premier League team, as Stuart Mac expands:
“As I reported a few weeks ago foreign investors have visited Ottawa and Lansdowne.”
Lansdowne Park is a big facility in the nation’s capital. It is a worldwide attraction not only in the nation’s capital but in all of Canada. Furthermore, it could be the biggest reason Atlético Madrid is interested in having a team in the nation’s capital. The Ottawa BlackJacks is a pro-Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) team that will start its inaugural season this year. Furthermore, there is also a possibility of a rugby league team possibly coming to TD Place Stadium next year.
AJ Jakubec, then confirmed that they would play at TD Place Stadium in Lansdowne Park, the former home of Ottawa Fury FC.
“Hearing there’s a strong possibility Ottawa could have pro soccer in 2020. Some big hitters — locally and abroad — interested in a Canadian Premier League franchise that would play at TD Place. Stay tuned.”
The last reason is Jeff Hunt, who saved junior hockey and brought back the CFL in the nation’s capital.
Jeff Hunt – Ottawa
Jakubec confirmed that Hunt is the likely local man behind the proposed Ottawa CPL team.
“Jeff Hunt is the local frontman behind the proposed new Canadian Premier League franchise in Ottawa. Hunt is working to bring pro soccer to TD Place in 2020 with a major club from La Liga (all signs point to Atlético Madrid). A deal could be finalized by as early as next week.”
According to Tim Baines of Postmedia, Hunt has done a lot for the Ottawa sports community. In 1998, he saved junior hockey in the nation’s capital and 2014 brought gridiron football back with the RedBlacks.
In Baines article, Hunt has confirmed his interest in bringing a CPL team to Ottawa in 2020:
“I can confirm that the CPL reached out to me some time ago to provide advice and guidance in bringing a CPL team to Ottawa,” Hunt said Friday afternoon. “I can tell you we’re very close in putting together a launch of professional soccer through the CPL in Ottawa in 2020. That’s certainly the goal. My involvement — that’s to be determined — but for the right situation, I would hope to play a role not just as a partner, but as a frontman on the ground in Ottawa.”
These last few months have been a whirlwind for Ottawa soccer fans. However, the nation’s capital deserves a pro soccer team. Attendance was never a factor in Fury FC folding operations.
Ottawa for 2020
While it seems quite likely that Canada’s capital is going to get a CPL team, it may still not be in 2020, but in 2021. Jakubec explains:
“A lot has to be done before Ottawa to CanPL in 2020 is a done deal. Do I think it’s going to happen? Yes. A source tells me it’s ‘headed in the right direction’ but far from complete. Be patient. Deals of this magnitude take time. Hope to have more definitive news shortly.”
It is only three months until kick-off in the Canadian Premier League. While it looks likely Ottawa will get a CPL team in 2020, it is still not a guarantee. This is because of time constraints of bring the eighth team into the CPL.
Ottawa’s History of Professional Soccer
The nation’s capital has had a professional soccer every year since Ottawa Fury FC’s debut in 2014. However, Ottawa has never had a professional soccer team in the first tier or first division since 1989. This was when the Ottawa Intrepid (originally called the Ottawa Pioneers) played in the first division of the now-defunct Canadian Soccer League.
According to the Northern Tribune in July, Ottawa Fury FC averaged 4,500 fans per game. This would put them fourth in Canadian Premier League attendance. However, it is also fair to say that Ottawa’s attendance might increase with a CPL team instead of a USL team. This is because they will be playing in Canada’s first division league.
This contrasts with the USL Championship where Fury FC was playing the reserve teams of some MLS teams. However, the competition for the sports dollar might be more for the Ottawa CPL team than for Ottawa Fury FC.
The Sporting Landscape in Ottawa
This proposed CPL team will probably have to deal with more competition then Ottawa Fury FC. As mentioned before, the BlackJacks are coming at TD Place Arena this year. More importantly, the proposed Ottawa rugby league team will play in the same stadium as the new Ottawa CPL team.
The Toronto Wolfpack averaged almost 7,000 fans per game in their 2017 inaugural season. That is more than 2,000 more than what Ottawa Fury FC normally draws. The Ottawa rugby league team will follow the footsteps of the Toronto Wolfpack in 2021. It also might surpass soccer as the third most popular sports team in Ottawa. Although, despite that, the Ottawa soccer team should be fine as they are a strong soccer market in Canada.
A Good Year for Ottawa Soccer
This was a good year for Ottawa soccer. What looked like it might take years is possibly one or two weeks away from becoming a reality. The Canadian Premier League also benefits from having such a well-renowned club like Atlético Madrid get involved.
Atlético Madrid will no doubt have a big impact on not just growing Canada’s capital as a soccer community. They will also play an instrumental role in growing the sport and brand of soccer in Canada with the Canadian Premier League.