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It was expected, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept
Canadian Premier League (CPL) Commissioner, Mark Noonan, today announces that the CPL Board of Governors has unanimously voted to terminate Fath Sports Limited’s right to operate FC Edmonton, effective immediately, per the terms of the CPL Constitution. As a result of this decision, the League will not operate a team in the market for the 2023 season.
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It began. It continued with some brave talk about finding new ownership and giving a nod to the fans of Edmonton that will not have a team next year, but that’s really all you needed to read.
Whether you want to believe that the league was trying to hide the release when general soccer fans would be distracted is up to you. It wouldn’t be the first time that a league did so though. Regardless, as was reported here and elsewhere previously, FC Edmonton is no more.
Not stated in the release were the complications that make the transfer of the playing rights difficult. There are no indications that those issues have been solved. In fact, the wording of the release does not bode well for those that were hoping that an easy transition was possible.
Unanimously voted to terminate Fath Sports Limited’s right to operate FC Edmonton.
That doesn’t seem like they are going to be sending each other Christmas cards this year, does it?
The Faths and CanPL were always an awkward partnership. The brothers never really seemed committed to the CanPL vision and were the last group to commit to coming on board. They preferred the NASL model and the opportunity to play more well-known brands like the Rowdies or Cosmos compared to what they saw as made-up teams with no history to or with them.
Additionally, the CanPL wants a more central vision and the Eddies NASL indie instincts were not a good fit there.
In hindsight, the league would have been better off waiting the market out and finding an owner to come in that better fit their vision. Even if it had taken a couple years, at least you wouldn’t have a poisoned market like they do now.
The attendances at FCE games last year weren’t only because people don’t like the stadium, bad kick-off times, or the poor record of the team. No, a lot of fans had soured on the CanPL as well. If they ever came around in the first place, that is.
This is only going to make this worse. Even if a miracle happens and an ownership group is willing to go in (and likely face a legal challenge from the Faths, who will maintain that they have exclusive rights to the market), there’s still an uphill battle to win the hearts and minds of fans back.
Fool me once…
It’s a bad market to lose though. Canada only has so many major metropolitan areas and Edmonton is one of them. They will need to eventually get back. Your perception as a national league suffers if you aren’t in Edmonton and it puts more pressure on the Winnipeg market to lose what was one of just two away days of a reasonable travel distance.
A Winnipeg market not as stable as many would like it to be, it should be noted.
There is simply no good way to spin the loss of a team, or to hide that it’s a problem by releasing the news during a World Cup game. This isn’t great.
It’s not fatal either, so long as the league learns from it. Both from a “make sure you get the right owners” perspective as well as a “don’t burn your fans too often” one. The latter is particularly important as your fans are your best marketing in the start-up phase of a league.
That’s the main reason I’m critical of the expansion-announcments-that-are-not-really-expansion-announcements that they were fond of under the previous leadership. If Saskatoon doesn’t happen, that’s another market that’s soured on CanPL (and it’s been a long time since we’ve heard much movement there that is more than “build us a stadium and we’ll come.”)
But, that’s something to worry about on another day. Today, we must focus on Edmonton and hope that we have not seen the last of Northern Alberta in the CanPL.
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