Canadian Premier League explores single-venue season

It’s dubbed the “single-site solution” and it could be the vehicle by which the Canadian Premier League plays the 2020 soccer season in some semblance through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We at the league office are very interested in this idea of playing an event where we bring all the teams together and how that would work,” CPL commissioner David Clanachan, said during an online chat with fans of CPL club Atlético Ottawa.

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The eight-team CPL, which includes Island-based Pacific FC, has missed the first five weeks of its season due to the pandemic.

“We’re working on all the options to get a product on the field,” said PFC president and co-owner Josh Simpson.

“Football is in high demand. The TV numbers were big and all eyes were on Germany last weekend for the reopening of the Bundesliga [in empty stadiums].”

The CPL has several advantages that leagues with cancelled seasons don’t have. Unlike the Western Hockey League and West Coast League of baseball, the closed Canada-U.S. border is not an issue for the CPL because all its franchises are within Canada. Unlike the gate-driven Western Lacrosse Association, the CPL has a non-gate source of revenue due to its TV and streaming deal with Spanish sports giant MediaPro.

But the CPL is a pro league and its players reportedly make between $30,000 to $55,000, which means a larger overhead than the WHL, WCL or WLA.

CPL players, however, have taken a 25 per cent deferral in salaries because of the pandemic.

Now comes the task of salvaging something of the season, perhaps through games played at a single venue. No fans would be in attendance.

“It’s a natural move given the circumstances,” Simpson said.

Clanachan concurred. “We think that would be very entertaining for our fans from across the country,” the commissioner said. “We’ll see how it works and it will take a lot of work to get it done. Things are starting to move along now and we’re excited.”

Single venues or selected hub venues are also being considered for the restarts of the NHL, NBA, MLB and MLS.

“We’re learning from those leagues,” Clanachan said. “We’ve also prepared a lot on our own while taking the lead from Canada Soccer and others.” Clanachan said he “took notes” as the Bundesliga reopened last weekend.

Asked if Westhills Stadium could be in the running to be the single venue for the CPL season, Simpson, a 43-time Canada capped former European leagues pro, said: “We would love to bid for it, but it’s far too early to tell. There are numerous hoops to jump through, as you may well imagine. Premier [John] Horgan has talked about B.C. being a hub for the NHL. So there must be a way.”

The Bundesliga TV numbers show there is a desire among fans to see sport again, Simpson said.

“The CPL is looking to fill a need and demand for sport while, at the same time, being responsible in a health crisis,” he said.

“None of us have gone through this before, so there is no playbook. When there is no playbook, you have to be innovative.”

CORNER KICKS: Simpson noted many Canadian soccer fans tuned in last weekend to watch national team star Alphonso Davies play for Bayern Munich. Davies was to have played at a sold-out Westhills Stadium in March, but Canada’s two games against Trinidad and Tobago, considered key for 2022 World Cup Qatar qualifying, were cancelled due to the pandemic.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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