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Canadian Premier League signals intent to return – but venue remains uncertain

Hamilton’s Forge FC celebrate winning the inaugural Canadian Premier League championship (Credit: CPL)

The Canadian Premier League has signaled its intent to salvage its 2020 season in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, but it remains unclear where a quarantined tournament would be staged.

The start-up league was due to start its second season in April but it remains on an indefinite suspension because of the ongoing health crisis.

The CPL announced that its “owners, clubs and player leadership unanimously agreed on the structure and concept of a proposed strategy on the possibility of a 2020 CPL season.”

The statement added: “The next step will be to engage with the fans and partners as the Canadian Premier League with its Clubs work collectively to find a solution for a 2020 CPL season.”

No further details were added. But it is believed that the CPL wants to take to the field sometime between July and September.

Like many other team-sports organizations in North America, the league is looking to stage a shortened campaign in a neutral single-site location. The two leading contenders are Vancouver Island, British Colombia, in the west coast of Canada and Prince Edward Island on the east coast.

The city of Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island has officially submitted a proposal to the league.

“Charlottetown is open for business,” Charlottetown 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.”

The city of Langford, British Columbia, which is located on Vancouver Island, has also expressed interest. Langford is the home of CPL team Pacific FC, whereas Prince Edward Island does not have a team affiliated with the league.

A decision will come down to which province and city is given the green light to stage the event, in addition to the quality and cost of the facilities on offer both on and off the field.

CPL commissioner David Clanachan told SportBusiness in a statement: “The health and safety of our players and staff and the local community will always drive our decision. We are waiting for an invite, ready and looking for a home for 2020. We’ve already had a tremendous response from multiple locations and provinces, each bring their own strengths and advantages. We’re looking forward to making a decision soon that is the best solution for our players.”

Josh Simpson, the Pacific FC president, admits that Prince Edward Island has put in a “compelling” offer but is quietly hopeful that Vancouver Island will be chosen as the location.

He told SportBusiness: “[BC Premier] John Horgan has been very supportive of bringing the National Hockey League to [British Columbia this summer] and with that in mind I don’t see why we won’t be able to get it over the line with the CPL.

“An island on the east coast and an island on the west coast is what it comes down to.”

As a result of the coronavirus crisis, CPL players have had 25 per cent of their contracts deferred, while coaches, technical staff, and club and league employees have taken wage reductions. The CPL has also sought C$15m in “short-term financing” from the Canadian federal government.

“The financial impact has been huge,” Simpson added. “It’s difficult to get a sports league off the ground as it is and to be interrupted by a world pandemic…to be able to carry the clubs and the league, it’s an expensive operation. So [there are] huge financial implications obviously that our ownership is enduring and working through with our players and staff on. As far as the [2020 season] event, there will be certain costs with that as well.”

The prospect of the CPL going under “has absolutely not been a topic of conversation,” declares Simpson.

He added: “We’re a young league and we’re nimble enough to be make to make informed decisions quickly. Generally, it’s a very positive group of forward-thinkers that make up our ownership and board of governors and are very dedicated to putting football on the map in Canada.”

That optimism differs from that of the Canadian Football League, which is also trying to resume play but acknowledges its long-term future is “very much in jeopardy.”

Further reading: Atlético Madrid looks to CPL team to expand the club’s brand in North America