Canadian Premier League looking to resume play based in P.E.I.

Going from Canada’s west coast island to its east coast island could salvage the soccer season for Pacific FC.

Prince Edward Island could be the solution for playing out the 2020 pro Canadian Premier League campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The HFX Wanderers of Halifax have put forth a proposal to have all eight teams play the season in P.E.I. The province’s government appears to be on board with the plan.

“The CPL is currently searching for a safe location to play its entire 2020 season and the Halifax Wanderers thought our island would be a good fit,” said the P.E.I. Department of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture, in a statement.

“We are working through the stages of figuring out the details of how we could host the CPL on our island. We would love to host the 2020 season, as it would be a huge impact for our island’s economy. However, the health and safety of islanders always comes first. There are many health guidelines and restrictions that need to be reviewed and approved by our chief medical health office. Once these are approved, we will put together a package to bid as a host for the CPL.”

The CPL said it had no comment.

“The league is working on multiple options to play the season,” confirmed Pacific FC general manager and CEO Rob Friend.

“I’m optimistic and excited about the possibilities, and being on TV, and showcasing our league.”

The CPL has a TV and streaming deal with Spanish giant MediaPro.

The Canadian Press reported P.E.I. has 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with no deaths and that the province plans to further relax restrictions beginning June 1.

The CPL may, however, be looking at other options.

“We are monitoring the situation across the country,” said Friend,” the former Bundesliga pro player, who was capped 32 times for Canada.

PFC was set to open April 11 against FC Edmonton at Westhills Stadium in Langford before the CPL season was postponed due to the pandemic. Under normal circumstances, PFC would have already played seven games heading into a match-up Saturday at Westhills Stadium against Cavalry FC of Calgary.

“We’re working on all the options to get a product on the field,” said PFC president Josh Simpson, in an interview last week.

Asked if Westhills Stadium could be in the running to be the single venue for the CPL season, Simpson 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 Horgan has talked about B.C. being a hub for the NHL. So there must be a way.”

Simpson, the 43-time Canada capped former pro out of Juan de Fuca, pointed to the television numbers for the restart of the Bundesliga this month and noted “football is in high demand.”

The CPL was formed last year because every World Cup host nation is required by FIFA to have a domestic pro league. Canada will host the 2026 World Cup along with the U.S. and Mexico.

Being the long-awaited Canadian pro soccer league gives the CPL some leverage on the national sports stage. Just how much is the question. The CPL has asked the federal government for “short-term bridge-financing” of $15 million to get it through the pandemic.

CPL players, who reportedly make $30,000 to $55,000 annually, have taken a 25 per cent deferral in salaries because of the pandemic.

The league says it expects teams to start training soon in groups, pending approval from provincial and local health authorities.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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