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Clanachan out at CanPL
The search for the CanPL's Don Garber starts now
In an announcement that was surprising, but not that surprising, David Clanachan has stepped aside as commissioner of the Canadian Premier League.
At the time of writing, there is speculation that he is leaving to take over as lead of a Windsor, Ont. expansion effort (if you are geographically challenged, Windsor is the Canadian city that borders Detroit. It’s an interesting expansion market for that reason, as most of its traditional sports fandom there looks across the river. But, more on that later, as more information comes out).
As stated in the opening paragraph, this is news that will surprise the average fan in that there had not been any suggestion that he was looking to move on, or that the CanPL was looking to move on from him. That said, those that were close to the league had an inkling that the fit might not be right for Clanachan to continue in his role as commissioner.
There was talk about him wanting a position that didn’t require as much of his time. During the latter part of this past year he was increasingly less of a presence at the Toronto head office and was unreachable on weekends, I was told.
To a person, people liked him and felt that he cared about the league and the future of the sport here in Canada. However, it was increasingly becoming obvious that he might not be the best fit to lead the league now that it is past the initial launch phase.
Some may draw comparisons to Doug Logan, the original commissioner of MLS, in this regard. Logan was able to do a lot of the grunt work to get MLS going, but once the league was past that first phase, it became clear that new ideas were going to be needed to make sure that the league could thrive moving forward.
They hired Don Garber to replace Logan and the rest is history. Say what you want about Garber. He has clearly been successful in making MLS a stable and growing league. It will be up to CanPL to go out and find its Don Garber now.
There’s lots of time to speculate on who exactly that might be in the future, but for now the focus should be on what kind of appointment that they should make.
What follows is one part reporting what I’ve been told and two parts my opinion:
The first quality that needs to be searched for is energy. What Clanachan lacked was visibility, which was related to that lack of a desire to be a 24/7 kind of commissioner. To be clear, I’m not being critical of him for wanting to have family time, away from his job. That’s an understandable and human need. But, it’s not a good fit for this job.
The CanPL needs a commissioner that is out there hustling all the time. And, not just in the boardrooms. He or she needs to be pressing flesh in the tailgates and pubs too. They need someone that both fans and sponsors can get behind – someone that’s going to work weekends and charm local reporters.
To that end, I’d suggest that the candidate should be younger. An older Millennial, or younger Gen Xer, that is digitally savvy and approachable.
Oh, et ils doivent parler français.
I can’t stress that enough. The failure to make inroads into Quebec is the biggest failing of the first three years of this league. Every effort should be made now to get into the province.
Now we’re going to get a little more controversial. They need to address the work culture at the head office. When one former employee tells you that there is a problem you can chalk it off as them being bitter. When two do you start to wonder. When 10 do…you got a problem.
The CanPL head office has been described to me as a toxic workplace by multiple people. Good people have left because they do not feel that the environment allowed them to thrive. Again, this is not an isolated voice. It’s a trend. Whoever comes in needs to listen to what the staff are saying and find a way to fix a very real perception that is out there. Even if it’s just that – a perception.
To that end, they should not hire internally. You may hear names like Scott Mitchell or Glen Johnson floated in the days ahead. As much as I respect Mitchell as a sports executive, he’s too closely associated with Hamilton to be accepted as the leader of the league (not that I think he wants the job anyway).
As for executive VP, Johnson…he was widely viewed as the bad cop to Clanchan’s good cop in the front office. Appointing him as commissioner would not indicate any type of cultural change in the head office.
This is an opportunity for the CanPL. Let’s hope they take it.
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