It’s Langford vs. Charlottetown for right to host CPL games

Major League Soccer has ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Florida, for its restart. The Canadian Premier League has a Dickensian tale of two vying cities on opposite coasts. It is between Langford and Charlottetown, with the latter saying it has the lead for the CPL restart.

Charlottetown announced Friday it is “a leading contender to serve as host city for this year’s modified Canadian Premier League season.”

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“Charlottetown is open for business,” Mayor Philip Brown said in a statement.

“I’m excited to be able to extend an invitation to the Canadian Premier League and its eight member teams to play their modified single-city season in the birthplace of Confederation. It doesn’t get any more Canadian than right here in Charlottetown.”

Not so fast, says Langford. The old joke is Langford may only be the birthplace of the mullet, not the nation, but it’s the fastest-growing community in B.C. and one of the fastest in Canada with a young, family-oriented demographic. It is also home to Pacific FC of the CPL, while Charlottetown does not have a team in the league.

“Both cities are good, but ours is better. I think this will be the best place for the restart and we have a good chance of getting it,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young.

“We have a sports-mad community, which has been very supportive of the CPL. So many people are coming up to tell me how much they are missing sports. And we have one of the best stadiums [Westhills]. Even if no fans are allowed in to the games, it is set up great as a studio for a made-for-TV event.”

The CPL has a TV and streaming deal with Spanish giant MediaPro. CBC carried several CPL games during the league’s inaugural 2019 season. The rest were streamed live on OneSoccer.

All eight CPL teams would play in one location from July through September in the abbreviated 2020 CPL pandemic season. Each team will need to be “bubbled” in its own hotel.

“We have a terrific hotel infrastructure in Victoria,” said Young.

“I believe the CPL season should be happening here, as long as the B.C. medical officer OK’s it. I think we have a great chance and I’m hoping they choose us.”

Holding the entirety of the pandemic season at Westhills Stadium is under consideration by the B.C. government.

“I have been in contact with the Canadian Premier League about their plans to host a shortened season in Langford,” Lisa Beare, provincial minister of tourism, arts and culture, told the Times Colonist this week.

“We are currently reviewing their proposal.”

It will be a major undertaking on either coast.

“It will be a huge operation in bringing everyone here for a made-for-TV sports event. But we can pull it off,” said Pacific FC president Josh Simpson.

“Langford is so supportive in helping bring it to Vancouver Island. Now the province has to step up. There is an urgency. It’s come down to Langford and Charlottetown. We have seen the position of Premier Horgan in wanting to bring the NHL restart to B.C. That gives us lots of hope for the CPL, too.”

The CPL has not given a timeline as to when the choice of venue will be announced.

Beare, Young and Simpson all said health and safety are of primacy.

Vancouver Island has had 130 COVID-19 cases with five deaths. P.E.I. has had 27 cases with no deaths.

“The most important thing is to satisfy the health requirements,” said the 43-time Canada-capped Simpson, who came out of Juan de Fuca to play pro in Europe.

The province released its Return to Sport Guidelines this week. The first Island team back to practise in any sport was Pacific FC.

“Sport organizations will play a key role in bringing people back together and in helping us heal from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Beare.

PFC was set to open April 11 against FC Edmonton at Westhills Stadium before the CPL season was postponed due to the pandemic.

“It’s exciting that two communities on opposite coasts have stepped forward in wanting to make the restart happen,” said Simpson. “It shows our league is united, from the players to the technical staff to the owners.”

The CPL, like every other sports league in the world, could not have anticipated a 2020 season amid a pandemic. The league 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.

CORNER KICKS: Canada Soccer announced its Return to Soccer Guidelines on Friday. Perhaps fitting given the Langford-Charlottetown run-off, the first amateur teams given the OK to return to the pitch, as early as this weekend, are those from B.C. and P.E.I.

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