February 1, 2018 CPL--Question and Answer with CPL commissioner David Clanachan at McMaster University (by Rocket Robin)


Dr Nick Bontis (left) and CPL Commissioner David Clanachan at the Question and Answer session MP3 File...Q&A at McMaster University...42 minutes
Details of the Canadian Premier League (CPL) Question and Answer session held at the 39th World Congress at CIBC Hall of McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario on Thursday February 1, 2018 at 11:00am. [I'll keep my comments in this style of brackets.] The Hall held a two day session in Sports Management for mostly students of the University. This session, with attendance of about 300, was anticipated by those outside the school as it would be one of the first times we've heard from the newly appointed commissioner of the new CPL league David Clanachan. Dr Nick Bontis who is a professor of the facility's DeGroote School of Business was the person who posed the questions. I approved the structure of the presentation was there was an order to make sure the points were covered. It was explained that the floor would be opened for audience questions after their segment. Opening question by Dr Bontis was to allow Clanachan a chance to outline his business background. Clanachan quickly outlined how he worked his way up in the Tim Hortons business from age 14 over the last 35 years. Tim Hortons as a corporation spends a lot of time, effort, and funds on their TimBits Sports programs in their communities. There are over one million children in their sports programs and three hundred thousand of those playing soccer. He has business skills and a passion for sports. He said he's very impressed with the people he's working with in the league. Bontis asked why now is the time for this new men's league (ie April 2019 kickoff). What are the forces that make this viable? Clanachan says the demographics has shown that the game has exploded with the success of the national women's team. Everyone knows soccer. It's also affordable to play. There's a passionate group of owners who are also patient and are looking for their legacy. The digital age in particular the EA Sports FIFA video game and the fact that you can now watch multiple games every weekend. He outlined that every World Cup qualifying country except Iceland has their own premier league. Bontis then asked him what this league will look like given that the league has not announced what teams will be involved (except Hamilton and Winnipeg). Clanachan answered that the league will operate coast to coast. We were at the time of his appointment talking to 12 to 15 communities/owners' groups but we've added another three to make 18. Not everyone is at the same point in development so we are looking to launch with 8 to 10 teams. From a fan base perspective we've been very impressed with the rise of supporter groups. There are about 16 of these groups. Bontis cut in namedropping the Barton Street Battalion in Hamilton. They will have a say in the process and we are engaging with them now. He said he knows they will not fill the stadiums at the fifty-five thousand EPL (England) level but maybe six to ten thousand fans. It will be a good game and entertaining and we will be developing not only players but coaches and administrative people as well. Bontis asked him to expand on supporter's groups as soccer is the only sport with them. Clanachan said soccer is a community based sport. These groups are lobbying/demanding to their municipalities that their community get a team. We have a team of four or five people meeting with these groups and the owners. The Hamilton group had the loudest voice and were engaging with what the team would look like, the uniforms, the name of the team. He sees passion. 'We want to engage'. Burnley EPL a town with only 50000 can draw 30000 into their stadium. Bontis asks how the Canadian player can get better especially with the World Cup bid for 2026. Knowing right now that the Canadian player ratio is still being negotiated. Clanachan says it is important that we provide Canadian content for the roster/coaching/administration, under 20s on the field. He sees this as a mandate. Bontis asked how the CPL will position itself with MLS teams in Canada's three biggest cities. Clanachan answered they don't have a relationship yet. He's very impressed with what MLS has done. He sees cities of their size able to support multiple clubs in all three of these cities. We see a crossover in the Canadian Championships with our teams playing the MLS clubs. It was a great atmosphere last week with Newport hosting Tottenham in the FA Cup in England. He's also looking at the CPL champion getting into the CONCACAF championship/league. [I'd expect at the lower tier playing Caribbean and Central American teams for the right to play in the MLS/Mexican tier]. Broadcasting was then brought up. It would be unrealistic to be on TSN coast to coast. Clanachan marvelled at what has happened in broadcasting and digital. The new Los Angeles FC in MLS will stream their games on YouTube. This could be an opportunity. He thinks there is an opportunity to get their product shown. There are broadcast companies that see an opportunity to break into our market that aren't even in Canada yet. Bontis asked him about the pathway for players to CPL acknowledging that they are in front of a high school and university audience. [TFC II goalie Angelo Cavalluzo is a McMaster graduate.] Clanachan said the owners are still talking. It could be a draft. We have people that have compiled a list of players with Canada Soccer. You get people out there, the 17 and 18 year olds who could play here and make the national team. We've appointed Jim Easton who is steeped in soccer and is a wealth of knowledge to the position of Head of Soccer Operations. There are some good players who will still go over to Europe and players may be coming back. Bontis asks for crystal ball gazing about the CPL in ten years. Clanachan says let's dream big. We want the FIFA model (not MLS). We want an April to October season. No playoffs so we're not playing in the cold weather. There would be opportunities be promotion and relegation. Bontis asked what will the owner's will think of their investment of millions threatened with relegation to a second tier. Clanachan said that won't be a problem for years and we'd need 12 to 16 teams before that becomes a concern. He said the owners are passionate and they understand. We need to reach the smaller communities like Windsor and Barrie. We can do this without building 200 million dollar stadiums. They are affordable and adaptable which communities love...no white elephants. Equitable? Asks Bontis reminding them about Women's soccer. Clanachan says we understand but we have to get the men's game off the ground. He sees a great opportunity to move forward but it's a matter of time and we need patience. Bontis asks about 'threats' to the league. What might go wrong? Clanachan answers that it's a business with many prongs like building ten businesses (each club) at once. Stadium building in the non-traditional way. We've got to get the right talent. The business of the league has to run as well. Bontis asks about the students breaking into sports management in general. Clanachan says you need to understand sports in general but you have to apply what you've learned in business. You need a well rounded experience in the business not just sports. Just knowing sports is not enough. The floor was then opened up to the audience to ask questions. A student asks about the types of on-line streaming like 'Twitch' for electronic sports. Clanachan answered that we're looking at everything. We've talked to different companies. It may be a hybrid model of traditional and new broadcasting. You the audience are deciding! Another person asked what are the priorities in the next 14 months. Clanachan answered we know where all the good players are (in the hundreds). We know good Canadian and foreign coaches. More important is the organization (the teams and the league) and a place for the teams to play and broadcasting and the financial situation. It's a puzzle that needs to be assembled. Next question asked was about attracting foreign players. Answer there shouldn't be any problems with work visas like other sports leagues operating in Canada. They can attract foreign players because people view Canada as a great place to come to and live and raise a family as compared to some other countries. A person asked how we will develop university players. Clanachan says they will work with Canada Soccer and hold clinics. The league may have a content rule of U-20s giving them roster spots AND playing time. Last question was also about Canadian content. Clanachan said they are still negotiating that but he says he's looking for it to be important. Look at the USA not making the World Cup...among other reasons may be there were a lot of American players not getting to play in the MLS. The meeting was then broken up with Clanachan was presented with a gift basket. After a few one on ones we were ushered out of the room as there was another lecture going to start. Students were advised to exit the room and swipe their cards to come around for whatever presentation was next. Hmm all that in 43 minutes! I didn't recognize anyone except The Voyageurs founder Jamie McLeod who presented Clanachan with a scarf and Ben Rycroft who I know from his work in League 1 Ontario. Those two confronted me with a picture of me from 2010 on their cellphones in a now undersized North York Rockets jersey taken from my own website. I wonder if they chose this as I was struggling to keep at least one button done up on my suit jacket. Anyway we waited through some sports agents getting their cards in. One question I could hear made me understand that this wasn't going to be an MLS 'single-entity' operation was when someone asked about parity and Clanachan answered that he was making the owner's understand that they don't want to have 7-0 score blowouts. Hmm. If this was single-entity the league would ensure that owners don't stack their teams. Finally after introducing myself as someone who attended over sixty League 1 Ontario games last season I turned my question more to a warning as the answer to my question had been addressed that it was still being determined...If the league has a draft (with the wages being discussed) some players from Southern Ontario may not be so enthused to go to Saskatchewan [sorry folks] and yet if it is open tryouts they would flood the three or four Southern Ontario teams. Even with the one-on-ones it was over in one hour. I left to get here this morning from the north of Toronto early enough to beat the rush hour and arrived at 7AM...just over an hour. For a game last season in Oakville (only two thirds the distance) it took me three hours in rush hour traffic. I've already resolved that I won't be driving to Hamilton to see games. Now a team closer to the GTA and I expect I will be a fan. Rocket Robin robing@eol.ca

CIBC Hall at McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario

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