CPL Commissioner remains bullish on Pro-Rel, updates on EA Sports

The Canadian Premier League is less than 30 days away from kickoff, with Forge FC hosting York9 FC at Tim Hortons Field on April 27 in the inaugural match, and CPL Commissioner David Clanachan hopes the eyes of the world will be on Hamilton for the historic occasion.

Clanachan appeared on 680 News Radio with Michael Leach to provide updates on developments around the league, and stressed that Canada will embrace the world’s most popular sport through initiatives that focus locally, nationally, and internationally.

One of those initiatives is Soccer Unites Hamilton, which opens the doors at Tim Hortons Field for all fans and supporters who want to participate in the event through a ticket lottery, while also raising money for youth soccer in the region.

But on a global scale, Clanachan is already looking to the future, where topics like the introduction of promotion and relegation – the system employed by leagues around the world to send teams up and down their respective soccer pyramids based on table standings at year’s end – were put on the table.

“From the very get-go when I joined the league early last year, I’ve said right from the start that we want to follow the global game, and the global game talks promotion-relegation,” Clanachan told Leach on 680 News Radio, when asked if the CPL would one day introduce the popular format to its own growing pyramid.

“I use the EPL last year as an example of Manchester City running away with the league, yet still, at the end of the season, everyone was focused on what was going to happen with promotion and relegation. There’s something for everybody and it’s a dimension that only the game of football globally has available to it.”

To reach that point, the CPL will continue to expand, with Clanachan affirming in the past that more teams will follow the seven founding clubs in the coming years.

As it stands now, the CPL launches with a split season, which features a 10-match Spring and an 18-match Fall for each club.

Why the uneven split?

“It really falls around Canada Day (July 1, when the Spring ends),” Clanachan told Leach, when asked for the reasons for the CPL’s unique format. “Here we are, a league for Canadians, by Canadians, and it was all about having that first Spring season end on Canada Day in our inaugural season, so that all the teams are playing on Canada Day and it’s that penultimate big celebration on Canada Day.

“We recognize that it would be imbalanced in that way, but we wanted to commemorate that first half on Canada Day, which is fitting.

“Going forward, we’ve left it open, we can balance that off a little more, but we like this idea of a split schedule because it keeps everybody playing for something, and keeps everybody in it. It’s great for the supporters and fans. That’s the bottom line. It amps up the entertainment level, because we don’t have a second or third division yet. We’re not ready for promotion-relegation. This adds a bit of that element to it.”

There’s also more that goes into creating a soccer industry in Canada than matches and league formats alone. Off the field, video games like EA Sports’ FIFA franchise, as well as social media and mobile experiences, have evolved the game into a total entertainment experience.

To that end, Clanachan gave assurance that the CPL will continue to remain on the forefront of this sporting evolution.

“Today, the game is so much more 360 degrees,” Clanachan told Leach. “It’s not just what happens on the pitch. There’s so much more attached to the game today.

“We have met with EA Sports. They were great,” Clanachan continued. “In fact, I actually credit that company, since EA Sports’ FIFA is based out of Burnaby, B.C., for the way the game has grown in Canada.

“They were very interested in the Canadian Premier League. (But) we need to launch the league first. We have to kick a ball first.”