When the news broke that the soon to be announced Canadian Premier League's headquarters would be based in Hamilton it was a fitting location for what will be a major undertaking. Hamilton, known for its gritty blue collar vibe and steel mill skyline has recently rebranded itself as the Ambitious City. With a resurgence of one of the hottest housing markets in the country and sizable investments in the arts and sciences, the city has become a generator of ideas and vitality for the dreamers who choose to live in the city.
The Canadian Premier League, an ambitious project of its own, will need to get a number of aspects right to see long term success in the country, let alone in each franchise's city. Ticketing, marketing, operations, structure, partnerships and TV deals are all important pieces to this Canadian soccer puzzle that will need to be carefully examined before the league is announced.
The fans know, as do the investors, that this will not be a cash cow of a league. Despite the likely sharing of CFL venues and operations the discovery of savings will not outpace the expenses of this league. Until a solid fan base and revenue stream is flowing, which will likely take years, the owners will be investing millions of dollars into a project with the expectation that a profit may not turn until half a decade in the future.
This is the part where you come in.
If you're reading this article it's safe to say you're someone who is invested in Canadian soccer. Perhaps you're a TFC fan, or even a season ticket holder. Perhaps you're a Voyageur who has stumbled across this article; or maybe you're just a soccer fan wanting to know how to get involved with what may be the most exciting time in Canadian soccer league history. What I suggest is something you have likely heard before, support local soccer.
Now support can have a lot of different meanings. That could mean going out to games, becoming a season ticket holder. Perhaps for you that means getting involved with a supporters group, or even starting one in a new soccer market. Now, more than any other time in the history of Canadian soccer we as supporters have the ability to learn from other soccer markets in North America and bring successes seen elsewhere to our own cities.
And while providing monetary support is one aspect the owners will look after, the attendances of fans will be crucial, not just for supporters groups but for the teams themselves. The higher the attendances, the more business partners can be secured resulting in higher revenues for the teams and for the league. So buy a ticket, bring a friend or teammate, share your passion of the Canadian game - we need this to catch on.
Now don't get me wrong; this league will not be glamourous. This league will be played in football stadiums with more empty seats then filled ones. And when your friends say it's not as good as European leagues they'll be right, but that's not why they're going. Fans won't be coming to CPL games to see the Sebastian Giovincos or the Steven Gerrards of the world ply their trade.
They'll be in attendance to support their city's newest team, a franchise that will embody the spirit of their hometown in a professional club and that's not just how this league will grow, but that's how all leagues have grown. It was Dennis Bergkamp who said "When you start supporting a football club, you don't support it because of the trophies, or a player, or a history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong."
But if we don't take this chance now and build off the CSA driven momentum then the state that this league opens at will never grow, or worse, it will fail all together. Remember, while the ultimate business goal of the Canadian Premier League is to be self-sustaining the reasons why this league is starting is to promote the game in Canada. To give Canadians a place to play, a local team to support and to help grow the world's most popular game in an authentic and Canadian way.
The Juno Award winning band Arkells, also Hamilton locals, wrote a song dedicated to their hometown entitled "Cynical Bastards". The song speaks to Hamilton's upward swing through hardships of economic downturns, but more importantly tells all the cynical bastards of the city that don't believe in Hamilton's revitalization to get "out of town". Much like Hamilton, the growth and success of the Canadian Premier League will be based around the believers and dreamers who are imagining something greater. A self-sustaining league, a place for Canadians to play and develop, and maybe, just maybe, a contributing factor of a World Cup berth.
So when this league is launched get behind it. Buy tickets, help with a supporters group, and support local soccer. Because on this journey of becoming a leading soccer nation we don't have the time for the cynical soccer bastards who will drag us down. Send a message to the league and to other supporters that we are here to help grow this sport, and to the rest of you not interested paving this path, you can get out of town.