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Q&A: CPL commissioner discusses Atlético Ottawa, its origins and playoffs

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I had a chance to discuss Atlético Ottawa, as well as the Canadian Premier League (CPL), with league commissioner David Clanachan at the club’s unveiling in Ottawa a couple weeks ago.

He’s excited about the league’s new addition and envisions big things for the CPL. 

What follows is our discussion the new Ottawa team, as well as his views on the future of the league:

Thanks for your time.  Before Atlético got involved, how confident were you of bringing CPL soccer to Ottawa?

“You know what, this happened so quickly a couple of months ago with the changes in events that we weren’t really there,” said David Clanachan. “Because, you know we’d backed off when we made the offers to the Fury in the past, so we had backed off.  You know we always believed, and I said from the very beginning, that the Canadian Premier League needed a team in Ottawa. We weren’t going to be truly Canadian until we actually got that done, and so, it was just a matter of finding the right partners, and there’s lots of good partners out there, this just became one of those things where the stars aligned. Really they did.

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“We were talking to them about clubs, but we were talking to them about other parts of Canada and then when the events turned it just kind of made sense. I think the famous quote was, ‘You play in the capital of Spain, why not the capital in Ottawa’, because of what happened a couple of months ago. You know, sometimes timing is everything, right? And it worked out really well and I’m really pleased.

“I meant what I said, if you’re a football/soccer fan in Ottawa, you just won the lottery.  You just got pedigree from day one. These guys, they are quality, quality people.   When Miguel Angel (Miguel Angel Gil Marin, Atlético Madrid CEO) when he talks about ‘humble’, I can tell you, you’ve never met a humbler guy in your life. If you bumped into him in the street, and didn’t know who he was, he’s just a nice man. That’s just who he is.

“They’re good people, they are very good people.  They are loyal.  And loyalty and humility are two great things to have.  We hit it off right, right off the bat.”

How important was it to have Ottawa play in 2020, instead of 2021?

“Well look, at the end of the day there is no time like today. We’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

“It was important. You know, you think of what an 8th team does for you. A balanced schedule, right? The schedule just cleans itself up. You start new rivalries. There is opportunity in front of us. You got to strike while the iron’s hot. You know, if it’s right in front of you, grab it. So for us, we knew it was going to be hard work.

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“These guys (Atletico ownership) they’re great, again the humility, they admit how hard it’s going to be for them. Having said that, I felt like saying this on the stage, if anyone can do it, these guys can do it. They have the backing of the big club, right? I think its going to be a lot of fun.

“You know, its going to be tough for them, but they’re capable, they’re really capable. These guys play Real Madrid every month, come on (laughing). They’re playing Liverpool in two weeks in the Champions League, they get it. They know this game.  You couldn’t ask for anything better.”

What are you looking forward to most about having Atlético Ottawa in the league?

“I think the rivalries. I see it amongst Canadians. I tell you, Canadians love to see cities play against each other. Like Ottawa-Toronto, Ottawa-Hamilton, Calgary-Ottawa, Calgary-Edmonton, we love that stuff.  We love that more than anything else.

“You know the other thing is, I think there’s a passion for football in this city that’s not been fully unlocked yet, but I know it’s here. Because as Peter Montopoli (Canada Soccer General Secretary) would tell you, they had six sellouts here (TD Place) when the Women’s World Cup was here in Canada. Six Sellouts. Over 24,000 people in the stands, right? I mean, that’s phenomenal. So you know people follow the sport.

“Someone threw a stat at me, that there is over a hundred thousand kids playing football in the Ottawa region. There’s 26,000 with the Ottawa South United, OSU. There’s 26,000 in that club alone. That probably makes it one of the largest youth clubs that I’ve ever heard of. And there’s some big ones in Canada, we forget about Oakville, we forget about Burlington, big clubs as well, that are some of the biggest youth clubs in North America. And we have them here.

“Again, I go back to, we are a soccer playing nation. We just don’t know it yet. And its our job to let everybody know that its okay to be a soccer playing nation.”

Do you think this will prompt further foreign investment in the league?

“That’s a great question, and I have been asked it a number of times and I’ll tell you the same thing I tell everybody.  I think it could. 

“The next question will be, are you receptive to it?  And the answer is yes, but here is the way I qualify it. It has to meet the strategic vision of the club that would want to do that. If we’re talking about clubs. It would also have to meet our strategic vision as a league and what we’re trying to achieve and accomplish.

“So the two things have got to line up. And then I would say, yes, potentially, absolutely why wouldn’t we? Having said that, if one or the other doesn’t click, then you don’t do it because there’s no need to race into things like that.

“We’ve got a good thing going here. We’ve got great rules.

“No one’s asked me the question about this. No ones asked me the question of ‘did Atletico challenge you on the Canadian content rules?’ And I’ll tell you right now, never been brought up one time.”

“Never one time. They love it. They absolutely love it. And they know, here’s a team that’s got foreign players everywhere, right? They love this idea. When Miguel (Miguel Angel Gil Marin, Atlético Madrid CEO) talks about developing young people, he loves that. That’s the game, right? If its not for the players, there is no game.

“You need the kids to grow, right? And that’s what it’s all about.”

And Finally, just in the terms of playoffs, with eight teams in the league playoffs seems to make more sense if that’s the way you’re going. Do you see it for the league?

“So we have a Board of Governors meeting next week, and it’s one of the topics, it’s interesting  because, its been brought up.  Some of the clubs are talking about ‘How would you do it?’ with 8 teams you can do a little bit of it, but you can’t go too far.  You can’t to this whole big thing because its disingenuous.

“So I think if we can come up with a creative solution, I’m open to it. I like the way we were doing it before. People were looking at us around the world with a home-and-away (system).   It’s difficult because you don’t want to be playing in the middle of November in this country, I’ve said that before. So I know it’s going to be a topic of discussion because a few of the owners have brought it up and they’re not they’re not going to just take the commissioner saying ‘No’. And you’ve got to listen, right? Why not? If its going to be more entertaining, then you’ve got to think it through. But I think its got to be creative too.”         

Thanks again for your time, I appreciate it.

“Thanks, Ryan.”


Though the new team was created quickly, and the signing process must be done in haste, this seems like a venture that the league did not take lightly, and it appears to be an opportunity that fits right in line with the commissioner’s vision for the future of the CPL.

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About Author

Ryan Stead

Ryan Stead is an Ottawa-based writer and life-long soccer fan. He has covered soccer and boxing for various outlets and is a published novelist with the book "Nation Man", available at Indigo. He covers Atlético Ottawa.

1 Comment

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    Um, as a parent with kids in the Ottawa youth system, the kidcount is wrong. There’s about 26,000 youth players in all of Ottawa. OSU only has 5,700 players, West Ottawa has about 7,000 and there’s another 8,000 between Gloucester Hornets and Ottawa TFC in the east-end. The rest are scattered throughout the smaller clubs in Ottawa.

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