Throughout March, the Canadian Premier League will celebrate the contributions and showcase the impact of the women of the Canadian Premier League. We are proud to recognize the influence the women of our League have on our community both individually and collectively. We hope their stories inspire girls and women to see a future in our beautiful game, whether on the field or off of it, because if she can see it, she can be it.
Today, Marni Dicker opens up about her new role as the League’s Executive Vice President, Infrastructure and Chief Legal Officer:
Marni Dicker has long aspired to work in sport, but it took some time to find the right fit to make her first foray into the industry.
Enter the Canadian Premier League.
Dicker was announced as the league’s Executive Vice President of Infrastructure and Chief Legal Officer on Thursday, a role that will see her combine her love of sport of all kinds with her expertise in infrastructure development. Dicker will use her three decades of experience to help grow the CPL by adding not only more teams but soccer-specific facilities, such as stadiums and training centres, that will provide more Canadians the opportunity to play, a critical factor in growing the overall game of soccer in the country.
“One of the main goals of this league is to expand and have fabulous stadiums that energize communities,” Dicker said. “I’m proud to say that I’m an expert in infrastructure and development, so with the skills I have, I aim to help address the needs of the CPL.”
Dicker brings a down-to-earth yet commanding presence to her new role in the Commissioner’s Office. Her infectious smile has the ability to make anyone feel at ease, and she exudes a genuine sense of curiosity, intelligence and leadership, all qualities of a successful executive.
She also brings an extensive resume, having spent nearly 30 years working in infrastructure and development for organizations such as Infrastructure Ontario and SNC-Lavalin, overseeing the development and procurements of new transit lines, roads, hospitals, universities, and long-term care facilities in the Greater Toronto Area worth more than $10 billion.
Dicker got a taste of working in sport when, as Chief Commercial Officer and General Counsel for Infrastructure Ontario, Dicker negotiated and contract managed the construction of all venues for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. But now, as Dicker moves into the industry and soccer full-time, she knows increasing her understanding of the game and the League is a first step to getting a handle on her new role.
“I want to have a deeper understanding of who we are as a league and how we want to expand, which is strategic because it’s more than a soccer game. It’s an opportunity for people to come together,” said Dicker.
Within the first three months in the role, Dicker hopes to work alongside CPL Commissioner Mark Noonan in continuing to identify ideal expansion locations.
“For that I’m not necessarily talking about it from a soccer perspective,” she said. “I’m talking embedded from an infrastructure community development lens, because my vision is that we’re not going to build stadiums that are just standalone stadiums. I am looking to build mixed use communities that surround our stadiums … My first foray into this is understanding which communities meet this vision across the country, where a professional sports team would help build out a community.”
While much of Dicker’s focus will be on expansion, she will spend just as much time working with the CPL’s existing clubs on improving their infrastructure, including the stadiums they play in.
“I don’t yet know what their issues are … so I plan on traveling across the country in the next couple of months and really getting a better understanding of who we have out there,” Dicker said.
Once Dicker understands what needs to be done, she aims to be finite and specific to expand the CPL in a way it deserves to grow.
Growing the CPL will extend to more than building new stadiums and bringing in new teams under Dicker, who becomes the highest-ranking female executive in the league. She has a long history of mentorship, and a big part of her plans include mentoring and leading women across the CPL.
In her previous roles, Dicker, who will also provide expertise in overall company governance, leadership, and direction for the CPL, was consistently the lone woman in the boardroom or on the construction site. She became known for her pink hard hat, figuring if she was going to stand out, she might as well really stand out. It was an intentional move. Dicker is proud to be a woman, a wife and a mother who has been successful in a male-dominated industry.
“Everything needs to be equal,” said Dicker. “I don’t see myself as a woman in sport. I see myself as an executive in sport … I believe every person that is working in this realm, in this office or out on the fields, has the extreme capacities to exceed all expectations and find mountains of success.
“People just need that little push to succeed sometimes, and I intend on being that cheerleader. I intend on being that pusher, but I also intend on leading by example.”
A leader, to Dicker, is someone who is capable of achievement, gender notwithstanding.
“We could be players. We could be management. We can be supporters. There is a role,” Dicker said.
Success to Dicker will ultimately come in many forms.
“How I define success is by attracting and retaining great people,” she said. “A happy workplace, satisfied players, successful team owners and, most important to me, communities that are welcoming of the sport. I will know that I have succeeded when I see families buying their season passes to our club’s games, because that’s telling me I have succeeded in building communities around our stadiums and not just building bricks and mortar.”
Julia Ranney is a freelance writer based in Toronto.