Professional soccer will return to Ottawa, announced the Canadian Premier League (CPL) Wednesday. The expansion club will be the league’s eighth team and will kickoff its 2020 season in April.
The news is all the more enticing as the backers of the club are none other than Spanish giants Club Atlético de Madrid. A fabled European club, with a full trophy case of domestic and European cups.
“We are delighted to be part of such an exciting project in an amazing country,” said Atlético de Madrid’s CEO Miguel Ángel Gil Marín, via a league statement Wednesday. “We would like to bring our expertise to a very strong and structured league and will work together with the CPL and the rest of the clubs to contribute to the growth of Canadian soccer. We want Ottawa soccer fans to be able to feel proud of belonging to the Atlético de Madrid family so we can start sharing our values with them.”
Also, included in the new club’s setup is Jeff Hunt, a prominent Ottawa businessman and owner of Ottawa Redblacks and Ottawa 67’s. He will serve as a strategical partner. Including a man with his finger on the pulse of the Ottawa sports scene seems a wise move by the Atlético ownership.
If the CPL is to truly be Canada’s own league, it needs its capital city at the front and centre bolstering its national appeal and Ottawa soccer fans are already buzzing with excitement.
“We are thrilled to welcome Ottawa as the Canadian Premier League’s 8th Club and Club Atlético de Madrid as our newest owners of the Ottawa club,” said CPL commissioner David Clanachan. “We are very excited to launch the club with one of the world’s most iconic and successful soccer brands and look forward to them taking to the pitch for the 2020 CPL season.”
Professional soccer has complicated history in Ottawa
This is not Ottawa’s first foray into the world of professional soccer.
The first such instance was in 1987 with the ill-fated Ottawa Pioneers (later named Ottawa Intrepid) franchise playing during the Canadian Soccer League’s 1987-1990 seasons. They truly did pioneer the professional game in the nation’s capital. Unfortunately, the franchise would crash out of the pro game in 1990 and their league followed suit a couple of years later. Soccer seemed to be just too much for the hockey and football fans to get behind.
Maybe the soccer gods wanted to see if Ottawa was ready, without fully making another attempt. That came in 2011 in the way of Capital City FC who joined a new Canadian Soccer League. Though this was not a true second attempt at the pro game as the semi-professional brand of the league kept it from being a true pro foray, the secret was out, we were ready.
But this attempt only lasted one year. And though our new team had a successful season, the league had a match-fixing scandal and subsequent decertification from the Canadian governing body that seemed to, if not sour, at least hinder ownership and the fans enthusiasm.
Ottawa Fury arrives
The second legit attempt at full fledged soccer in Ottawa came in the way of the wound almost too recent to mention to Ottawa Fans, the aptly named Fury.
Ottawa Fury’s flame flared up strong in 2014. Capital City FC’s demise left a vacuum which Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) had taken notice of. John Pugh, owner of the then Ottawa Fury franchise, who played in the US based Premier Development League, joined the OSEG.
- Opinion: Is promotion/relegation a bridge too far for Canadian Premier League?
- Story: Cavalry FC re-signs Pasquotti and Wheeldon for 2020 Canadian Premier League season
The OSEG had brought back CFL Football to Ottawa (with the help of the aforementioned Jeff Hunt) and wanted to include soccer into the fold. Gone were the days of Capital City FC’s bleachers of Terry Fox Stadium and the newly branded professional Ottawa Fury would play in downtown’s renovated Landsdowne Park (TD Place Stadium).
The Fury would enjoy varying degrees of success during their six season existence (2014 – 2019). They initially played in the upstart North American Soccer League (NASL) which was a rival to the United Soccer League (USL) vying for the crown of the second tier US status under the MLS. The Fury’s best moment, or at least closest to a championship, came in 2015 when they lost the NASL’s championship, the Soccer Bowl, to the New York Cosmos 3-2 in front of over 10,000 fans in New York.
Ottawa Fury’s demise
When the writing seemed to be on the wall for the NASL, the Fury jumped ship and began plying their trade in the stable United Soccer League.
Then it happened. After years of avoiding the obvious void in Canadian Soccer, the Canadian Premier League was born. Our own Canada-only professional league. The news was met with enthusiasm across Canada’s soccer communities. It just made sense. To everyone except the OSEG. Many Ottawa fans were stunned that the Fury would not be joining the CPL in its initial 2019 season.
The Ottawa Fury fought the Canadian Soccer Association over the right to stay in the United Soccer League and a bitter public feud ensued.
Then the news broke in November 2019 that the OSEG were out of the Ottawa soccer business. The Ottawa Fury’s flame was extinguished, folded and were no more. The finger pointing intensified and has continued to this very day. At the end of it all, it was the Ottawa soccer fans that paid the price. A price they had paid before. The future looked bleak at best.
Then the soccer gods decided we were ready.
La Liga’s Atlético Madrid has stepped in and Ottawa fans will have their very own CPL team for the 2020 season. Hope has been renewed and why shouldn’t it? A fan base is already waiting with open arms in Canada’s capital, with a viable stadium. Landsdowne Park (or TD Place) will once again be home to the beautiful game in Ottawa, stationed right next to the famed Rideau Canal.
With a major European backer, an excited fan base, and a promising new Canadian league, all the stars are aligned for professional soccer’s successful return to the nation’s Capital.