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, Brittany Arner, Vice President, Ticketing and Hospitality, York United FC, and Nicole Demers, Associate Vice President, Business Operations, Forge FC, share their experience working in business operations:
The second Brittany Arner dipped her toe into the world of sport, she felt right at home.
After graduating from the University of Windsor with a degree in Sports Management, she randomly applied for a job with the Edmonton Oilers to test out the industry.
“I’ve always been a service-oriented person,” said Arner. “But the minute I got [to Edmonton], I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in sports. I want to bring memories and experiences to people, and sport does that.”
That’s true of all sports, Arner has since learned, having worked with the Oilers and the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League before joining the Canadian Premier League in 2018.
“The beauty of the sports industry is that if you learn the key skills, it doesn’t matter what sport you’re in,” Arner explained. “So if you want to be in soccer but there’s no job opportunities, try hockey or football to build your communication, collaboration and work ethic.”
Arner’s title, for example, only reflects a portion of the work she now fulfills for York United.
Typically Arner can be found running meetings, selling tickets and working to gain and close sponsorship deals, though she said every day is different. She also assists with venue coordination, York’s marketing and matchday operations, including vendor negotiations.
“I wear a few hats, but I focus on getting people into the stadium and then engaging with us,” Arner said.
Arner enjoys the challenge of filling seats and putting on a world-class experience for the fans, despite challenges that can come with working in a club and league that is only embarking on its fifth season.
“It’s a lot, but it’s so much fun,” she said. “It’s worth it to see the supporters happy.”
Arner is one of a number of women who plies her trade in business operations within the CPL, their expertise spanning everything from ticket sales to sponsorship to accounting to hospitality to client services to stadium events to community partnerships and more.
Nicole Demers’s path to her role as associate vice president of business operations at Forge FC similarly saw her gain experience in other areas of the industry before landing in soccer.
Demers started working in baseball, as an intern for the Toronto Blue Jays. Her first full-time gig was in sales and service for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the CFL. In March 2022, Demers made the move to Forge FC.
“There’s always going to be challenges day-to-day,” Demers said. “Right now my biggest hurdle is figuring out how to grow the fanbase and the club as a whole. But getting to see the hard work you put in come to fruition on game day and seeing the existing fans happy makes it worthwhile.”
Demers spends her days collaborating with the marketing, sales and PR departments. On match days, she can be found setting up games and chatting with supporters to better understand their needs and wants. Engaging and developing the community around the club is one of the most fulfilling parts of Demers’ role.
“People might not realize that I’m not sitting in an ivory tower or delegating work to people,” said Demers. “I’m very much involved and willing to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. It’s all part of the job.”
She works closely with her community team to bring players into schools to discuss healthy eating and active lifestyles. Demers is also working to build a strategy that supports soccer development at the grassroots level.
“I get to help build a fandom and brand awareness at a young age and then hopefully watch amateur soccer grow in Hamilton as a result, which is really special,” Demers said.
Another initiative Demers is heavily involved in is Forge FC’s Spark Summit. The inaugural summit, which was held last year to great success, includes a panel discussion with leading women in sport and includes professional development opportunities. It is intended to help advance women in sport by providing inspiration as well the chance to network with other women in the industry.
Demers hopes the event, which Forge will host again in 2023, will amplify how the sports industry can support, empower and nurture women at any stage of their career.
“The event is about fostering gender equality and showing women they have a place in sport,” said Demers. “It’s great for young women coming through the ranks to learn from women in leadership roles. This shows them that they can succeed in this industry.”
Connections and mentorships are essential to having a successful career in sports, said Demers, along with the ability to never give up.
“My advice to anyone wanting to work in sport is to find someone who they can learn from,” Demers said. “Set goals, meet people and continue to grow. That’s what’s going to open doors for you.”
Julia Ranney is a freelance writer based in Toronto.