August 23rd, 2004
Nuke Soccer THE VINCE URSINI INTERVIEW
A soccer in the veins memoir of low budget life in Canadian pro soccer. Ursini, the torch carrier for Canada's only professional soccer league, opens up about the CSA, the A-League, the owners and why we need the CPSL.
The conversation took place between CPSL chairman, Vince Ursini, and Nuke Soccer webmaster, Saul Markowicz.
NUKE: It is the Canadian Professional Soccer League, the CPSL. But is it Canadian and is it professional?
VINCE: Yes and yes.
NUKE: All your teams are from Ontario. Shouldn't it really be the Ontario Professional Soccer League?
VINCE: I'm very comfortable with the name. Not as a description of where we are right now but of where the league plans to be. And it plans to be a division two, multi-provincial and, eventually a Canada wide league.
With regards to being professional, yes we are a professional league. We have players that are being paid. Unlike having an amateur league with no one being paid or with some being paid under the table. There are also players in the CPSL not receiving money. More importantly, the CPSL structure allows youth to play up in the league and to maintain their amateur status.
However, I believe we should all work towards a goal of, one day, players playing in this country professionally and being able to make a living at it. We are still far from it, but that's ideally where we want to go.
NUKE: This is the second go around for a league called the CPSL. The first one was a two month league but your CPSL is in its seventh season. In the past, I've heard you speak about stability and survival. Do you and the owners have a vision beyond staying alive?
VINCE: First of all, I don't know about a two month CPSL.
NUKE: You will find that fact in Colin Jose's Canadian Soccer Encyclopedia.
VINCE: Ok, alright, well that's interesting news to me. It may be the OPSL that existed for 2 months.
The vision of the league is to one day be national. We believed we would have been on the west coast by 2005 or 2006. However, as you mentioned, our goal as a league has been viability, stability, longevity. And the only way we maintain that is by making sure we maintain high standards, high financial standards.
In my travels the last several years, I found that those financial requirements are too onerous to meet the expansion targets that we had set. We are now looking at changing our membership requirements to allow this expansion.
At the same time, we have to insure that we can protect the principles of stability and longevity of teams. Several owners have been involved in different professional leagues over the last thirty years. They've seen the demise of all of our predecessor leagues.
As much as they want to survive, the owners also want to see a Canadian league.
NUKE: And the fans want to see a Canadian professional league too.
VINCE: The CPSL is delivering soccer that is beyond the amateur level in this province and in this country. It's a stepping stone to the next level, the A-League and the MLS. We've had well over a hundred players moving on to Europe and higher leagues over the last few years alone. Top soccer people in the country have said that the league is exceptional for the development of players.
The Canadian Professional Soccer League is incredibly valuable for training our referees. If it wasn't for the CPSL our referees wouldn't be getting any where near the experience they are getting to get themselves ready to do international games. From what the referees tell me, CPSL games are actually quite a handful and it's quite a challenge for them.
So there is definitely a role to fill.
NUKE: Professional soccer is not only about the development of players, referees and coaches. It's a sports entertainment, isn't it?
VINCE: Yes, we are in the entertainment business but, for the owners, it's a matter of being in a highly competitive marketplace. They have a belief that one day the league, and their franchises, will be worth a substantial amount of money. They have a belief that the game is going to grow and they are sacrificing a lot of time and a lot of money towards that belief. You may call it crazy but ...
NUKE: Do the owners believe they have an entertainment product worthy of people's time and people's money?
VINCE: I know that entertainment is definitely there. But most people don't know because they haven't watched a game. Most of the games, you have the odd one that may not be a barnburner, but in ninety percent of the games, you are going to see exciting soccer.
The teams attack, they do not sit back. The teams play an attacking style.
The players are playing all out. They are there to prove themselves. They are fighting for spots. It's exciting soccer. Great goals, great plays, great saves.
I've seen this day in and day out. Our cable television show has helped people see what goes on. Our games are televised locally. It's getting on television. And more and more people are seeing it.
What I'm looking forward to, what I'm excited about this year is that we are going to be national and people across the country ...
NUKE: You are going be national but on ...
VINCE: Vision TV.
NUKE: Which is a multi-cultural channel.
We are the first sports program on Vision TV. I didn't think anybody watched cable. However, we had great reach in the past two years. Most people are channel flippers. When they are flipping through the stations and they catch soccer, they hesitate that second, and they end up watching the show.
By going to Vision TV, we are going to be coast to coast. It's just a highlight show but people will get a taste of the League. We'll also have our finals televised nationally.
NUKE: Let's turn to the nuts and bolts of this pro soccer thing. You seem sure of what the CPSL is about but not everyone is. There are politics going on with the CSA. What's going on and what is the CSA role in the pro game?
VINCE: The CSA, having the responsibility delegated to it by FIFA, is in charge of all soccer. All of soccer means professional and amateur. Unfortunately the CSA's focus, and the focus of most of the soccer administration in Canada is on amateur soccer. All our structures, our clubs, our districts, our provincial associations, and our volunteers, spend all their time, effort and money on amateur soccer.
NUKE: The reality is that's where all the action is.
VINCE: Let me finish answering the question. The CSA, as is the OSA, is responsible for professional soccer. But all their attention is geared to amateur soccer. They are administering amateur soccer and amateur soccer, especially the volunteers, doesn't care about professional soccer.
There aren't enough volunteers to go around for the amateurs, let alone for the professionals. Then we have this mindset that why should we be volunteering and be helping professional soccer who are individuals and entities that are going to be profiting from the game and, therefore, profiting from our sweat and our efforts.
The Canadian Soccer Association has done little or nothing for professional soccer.
NUKE: Thatís quite a statement.
VINCE: Sepp Blatter, when he was here two years ago, he said it was critical for Canada's position on the world stage in men's soccer to establish a professional league. We came away from that event with very little or no work being done towards that objective.
There was a study done by Gerry Gentile and a group of individuals who spent a tremendous effort trying to establish a framework for a professional league. The only thing that has evolved after the CUSL project ended was a professional soccer committee. I can say unequivocally, and I challenge anyone that disagrees, that this committee has done absolutely nothing for the development of professional soccer in Canada.
NUKE: Yes there is a seat for each A-League team on the CSA's Professional Committee.
VINCE: Now, I have no problems with the members of that committee being A-League representatives.
NUKE: But those teams are registered with the Canadian Soccer Association. They are members of the Canadian Soccer Association.
VINCE: Absolutely, absolutely. What I'm looking for in a professional soccer committee is individuals who are committed to putting professional soccer on the map in Canada. And this means having people with their heart and their minds in the right place.
You have A-League members who are only trying to protect their turf. You cannot blame them. However, it doesn't do anything at all to develop the professional game overall in Canada.
NUKE: What aren't they doing, what has to be done?
VINCE: The first thing that a Professional Committee should do is set up a governance structure for the professional game in Canada. No one is presently concerned about overseeing professional soccer throughout the country. This may entail setting up a committee with representation from every province. Sub-committees at the provincial level would be another step. It is important that there are people throughout the country addressing professional soccer on an ongoing basis. This will make, and keep, the professional game visible and a topic for discussion. It also gets the game in the face of those Canadians that do not have the Pro game in their region.
The next priority is to develop a professional pyramid of play that can encompass and involve the entire country. There should be a united and concerted effort to develop each level of the Pro game instead of each region doing its thing, or individual owners following their own personal goals or ideas for the team he/she owns.
What we have now is a cop-out. The committee exists, giving the appearance, or excuse, that the professional game is being addressed. When nothing happens, as has transpired over the past four years, it is the committee's fault. In fact, it isn't even a problem because no cares that nothing is happening.
We all want a first division across the country. However, we should be working on developing the roots and a strong foundation in order to have a strong and viable league with financially viable franchises. The continuous entrance of new teams, followed by a constant exodus of failed clubs, is a reminder of how little things have changed in professional soccer in Canada.
We have had four A-League teams fail in the past three or four years. We have not had any failed franchises, since one was lost after our first year in 1998. Longevity and financial stability have always been the CPSL's top objectives.
Presently, the CSA's objective is to have six or eight A-League teams forming the top level of soccer in this country.
NUKE: Isn't that the immediate goal of that committee?
VINCE: You don't need to have meetings where there is not much accomplished. We already know what the status quo is. We have our A-League teams right now and those teams are trying to recruit other teams across the country and that's great. Professional soccer, however, consists of at least two other levels.
A lot of these teams do not want tier two teams in their territory because of a fear of competition. We should be working together to avoid this perception or the potential for conflict to exist.
We in no way profess to be above or at the same level of the Lynx or any other A-League team. Most of them are definitely at a higher level.
We have a role to play. We have supplied a lot of players to the A-League and beyond. Actually we have a great relationship with the Lynx, however, other A-League team owners do not have as open a mind as the Hartrells. And as long as the other A-League teams do not want to see professional soccer flourish at any other level ...
NUKE: Is someone suggesting that the CPSL step aside for someone to have a larger, exclusive territory?
VINCE: No, not that I know.
NUKE: CSA standards define three divisions, three levels of professional soccer. And so the CSA supports it.
VINCE: Well ...
NUKE: On paper they do.
VINCE: Yes, on paper. What have they done to promote? What has been done to promote division two or division three soccer across this country? What about the women's game?
NUKE: What are you expecting them to do? What are you hoping they do?
VINCE: The current structure and the current membership of the CSA have their hands full with the amateur game. I'm expecting a professional committee to truly take the reins and build professional soccer at every level. Obviously, always reporting to the CSA and under the CSA's jurisdiction.
It's setting up proper rules and regulations, a proper framework.
The current committee members are very, very busy running A-League teams. Quite frankly, I don't think they have much time, or the desire for other things, and the status quo suits them fine.
I'm saying that the status quo is not fine.
By having a professional committee, it's just acquiesced anyone that's complaining about why we don't have a deeper and expanded professional soccer program or committee.
If they have been doing any ground breaking work, then they certainly have not communicated it. In addition, it is unusual for such an important committee, upon which great expectations are placed for the development of professional soccer, not to have had even one formal discussion with the only Canadian professional league in this country. Have they had any formal dialogue with any province?
Not to be critical of the committee members, I believe that what our expectations are of the CSA's Professional Soccer Committee, and what the members of that committee believe their role is, is very different. I assume that the members of the committee are there to represent professional soccer in Canada, not to re-invent it.
NUKE: I was surprised to see in CSA standards that there is only a casual definition of a professional team. The OSA, in its standards, puts it at eleven players registered with professional status. The US federation says almost the same thing. But for the CSA, it's simply a team made up of amateurs and/or professionals. Is that the kind of thing you're talking about? They're not putting the bar up ...
VINCE: The bar does not have to be raised. In fact, in several of the places where they do indicate standards for stadiums for instance, the bar has to be lowered in all the categories. I don't think that specifically makes or breaks what level a team should be at.
What's more disconcerting is the fact that many of the rules are inapplicable or inappropriate, and no one knows or cares about it. Rules aren't being followed and no one really cares. No one, outside of those directly involved in the game, is paying attention to professional soccer.
We've been criticized for having teams that have facilities that didn't meet tier 2 or 3 standards. But I could tell you that there were, and are, A-League teams that didn't come close to meeting, tier 3 standards. The Calgary Storm originally had a stadium with no lights and no washrooms.
NUKE: That's right, I read about that somewhere.
VINCE: So, there's a lot of work to do.
NUKE: How does the CSA help you get things going coast to coast?
VINCE: Basically it's put some attention and effort at getting attention to the professional game. It's getting this national body to set up a governance structure for professional soccer. Really we don't have governance. We have a professional soccer committee. That's very different.
And if we can start with provincial/regional representation on a national professional committee, I think we'll get awareness up and start to make inroads in the general soccer population. Start the process and get the right people on board. They donít have to be a member of the CSA or an A-League member, but really anybody that is qualified can help.
NUKE: Governance is one thing and money is another. Where's the money in this country for a professional game?
VINCE: We are having trouble getting the desired eight A-League teams across the country.
NUKE: And you've had trouble getting money for your cause.
VINCE: Clubs have spent significant amounts of money. In general, I believe most of the owners are managing teams that are a little bit more expensive than they feel comfortable paying for.
My personal belief is that, and this is just a generalization, each level of soccer costs 8 to 10 times more than the level immediately below. On average I believe an A-League team is a tenth of the budget of an MLS team; and the CPSL is a tenth of the budget of an A-League team; and a senior amateur team is a tenth of the budget of a CPSL team. Remembering that obviously there are exceptions.
The A-League should not be expecting CPSL teams to be the ones who are going to be interested in buying A-League franchises. Most of our teams are at their limit. They are at their comfort level, the level they feel they can afford, or just more than they can afford, to spend. It is the same thing for the CPSL if we go out west and look for senior amateur clubs to make the jump to our league. It's a false expectation.
It has to be new money, new groups coming into the game. That is the hurdle, getting a sufficient number of investors to, literally, take the plunge.
Sure I spoke to quite a few individuals who wanted a CPSL franchise, however, if you don't get 6 or 8 teams that are reasonably close to each other, well, it's not going to work. It's not just the initiation fee, it's the annual operating budget, and especially the traveling expenses. You have to have teams joining on bulk. It's a matter of convincing 6 teams, not one, to join the league. The competition must be kept regional if the expansion is to succeed and survive.
This is what we are planning to do now. This summer we are working on making some significant changes. Quebec has been a biggest target and now we are looking at 4 or 5 teams coming in all in one shot. We are going to eventually try to do the same out west.
The other thing is the Open Canada Cup which we've had for two years. We definitely had hiccups last year. We are trying to show we can run the show properly and I think we have done that this year. With some discussions I've had with the right people in Western Canada, I think we may be able to get a playdown in that part of the country. This Western playdown in the Canada Cup would be a great precursor for setting up a Western Conference.
NUKE: So no great ambition to get the professional game going. No great rush to put some new money into the game.
VINCE: The desire is there. But out of 10 applications for new franchises, you are usually lucky to get one. Being enthusiastic means nothing until there is someone who is willing to put their money on the table.
New people are calling, so the interest is definitely there. Even if it's unrealistic, a lot of people want to be in the CPSL, however, unless people ante up, you have nothing. The financial requirements are substantial and most interested parties are not able or willing to take the risks and make the financial commitment.
The goal of this league is to keep moving forward, making progress and making sure it's stable, which it is. Making sure it keeps getting better, it keeps getting more professional in every way, in every sense of the word from an operational standpoint. Making sure that the teams live up to the professional label. Creating those opportunities for that expansion to occur.
As long as the league is healthy, the opportunity is always there. I think that what we are planning for next year should facilitate controlled expansion. What we are looking at now is a different type of membership status. Perhaps having playing members with significant bonds to make sure that they are financially committed to staying in the league and keeping their commitments. Then they have an option to buy into the league and become a full member, if and when they want. What we don't want is the revolving door syndrome that soccer has been noted for in this country.
NUKE: New money and new groups will need support. How many people in Canada know something about operating pro soccer organizations?
VINCE: There's quite a handful of people who are knowledgeable of the game. You have to get these people to realize the Canadian constraints and work within those constraints.
You need people that will dedicate their time and develop it from the bottom up. This is why I think it's easier to take the time to develop a solid tier two division across the country that would then easily support the tier one division, currently the A-League teams. Do not get rid of the existing teams but fill in what's below.
NUKE: To deliver a decent product and turn it into a viable business you are going to need good coaches, managers and administrative support.
VINCE: With regards to the development of coaches and managers, you are at the mercy of the team budgets. We are trying to increase the minimum standards and that's just at the tier two/three levels.
NUKE: Is there anything approaching a model franchise yet?
VINCE: I have to tell you that the new Border Stars franchise in Windsor, I said from day one, given the ingredients that I have seen going into that franchise, that they were going to be the model franchise.
I was at the first home opener, 1800 fans. But it wasn't just the fans, you have 4 or 5 owners, young owners, all involved with youth competitive clubs, each one of these individuals are very involved in their respective clubs.
The atmosphere, the atmosphere was electric. Every time the ball went into the 18 yard box , you'd see people on their feet yelling and screaming. And to see a standing ovation for the teams at the end of the game, it was truly exciting, it was something I hadn't seen before.
They are already sold out for their 3 games in the USA but the people who came to that game, oh they are definitely coming back and they are definitely bringing others.
The Border Stars did things right. The things they did, the atmosphere when you came in the gate, the things that they did for kids, the face painting, the balloon making, they had great merchandise sales. This is where we saw a group of guys working together in doing things right in the community.
NUKE: One day soon the whole league is going to have to do it right.
VINCE: I think we are going to see an end soon to the owner/operator/ president/manager because unless he/she has the deep pockets to pay for staffing, he/she is not going to have the time to do things right. We are continuously elevating the bar and we are elevating our expectations from our teams.
I've told this to the owners, there's going to be turnover, there is going to come a point where they won't be able to keep up, and that's fine and it will be time to sell their franchises and move on.
We've had several owners do quite well with their stint in the league and their ensuing divestiture. I think we've had a pretty good record in terms of protecting the franchises. How much they've put into it on a year to year basis is another story, but our franchises have held their value very well and there is belief, however misguided, that these franchises are going to be worth quite something.
Look at the Windsor experience, and also at Hamilton. Although Hamilton has since had their off field problems, each of the first two games in Hamilton saw over two thousand people, one game with the Lynx and one with Croatia; it was an unbelievable experience.
NUKE: I'm glad you mentioned attendance. The league doesn't publish attendance figures, why is that?
VINCE: In most cases it's not an eventful statistic for us because it's nowhere where we want it to be. Going back to standards, I personally think that it's something that the teams should be logging in because they should for their own sake be monitoring and comparing how they do. The league as a whole should also be tracking attendance.
NUKE: Seven years old and this league has not created a buzz with fans yet. So the buzz, where is it?
VINCE: The buzz factor would only be at the local level, each team in their community. I believe that the league has created some buzz in the past few years. It has definitely put itself on the map.
NUKE: What is the relationship with the teams and their communities? How are teams doing on that front? Is there evidence of any community support?
VINCE: It's all relative and it's definitely different for different teams. Itís evolving and in general, I believe there is a lot of community support in most franchise areas.
There are teams that have done a better job of getting into the community and there are teams that have done an abysmal job of it. They are beginning to become more and more aware that if they don't bring the community and the youth clubs in, they are going to have a hard go of it at the gate.
There is a great bit of work to be done there and a lot to be desired. However, I still think that many of the teams have gained more and more acceptability and co-operation in their communities.
NUKE: London and St Catharines are not big cities and there is no great summertime competition for a sports dollar. How well known are these teams in those communities?
VINCE: Oh, they're well known. Those teams are well known. The problem is in the GTA. Get outside of the GTA and the teams do much better.
NUKE: If I pick up the St Catharines paper, will I see front page sports section coverage?
VINCE: And in London, Windsor and Oshawa. This is a big event in those communities. They do get the coverage, tons of it. In most of the communities the local cable station will televise the games, all the home games.
We are also getting better coverage in our media here in the city. Still we aren't getting anywhere close to coverage we want.
NUKE: Are people watching those broadcasts? Do you have the viewer figures?
VINCE: I don't get those figures but I can tell you that our soccer show on Rogers had the highest ratings of any Rogers Sunday programs by a long shot. So, I would say yes, the people were tuning in. In addition, they were running repeats 4 or 5 times during the week, depending on the stations. Televised games were also being aired and run as repeats too. So we are getting nice television exposure.
NUKE: Another CSA standard interested me, the team player budget. CSA says that a Division Three team should operate on a minimum $50,000 budget. Divide that player budget by a 25 player roster and we are talking about $2000 for each player. How promising is that for a kid who wants to play in your league?
VINCE: If you want to go with $2000 and you assume a 20 game schedule, you're looking at $100 a game. You'll get your players who aren't getting paid, those who are getting $50 to $100 a game and the rest who are getting more. I think the better players are starting to look at $400 a game.
Traditionally expansion teams would pay a lot more for players just to realize halfway through the year that they're substantially overpaying players by a longshot. Then they would make the adjustment on the new contracts.
$50,000 is the low end of the scale. But a team has to look at spending at least $60,000 to $80,000 to field a decent team.
NUKE: The CSA standard total budget figure is $200,000. Is that where we are operating at?
VINCE: Yes, I think that's probably just above the average. I know there are teams spending more than that. I think that if a CPSL team spends $125,000 to $150,000 on travel, coaching, players, and other things, it should be able to put together a good product.
NUKE: What does the revenue side look like?
VINCE: The revenue is a big plug figure in the budget. The question regarding revenue is really how much money is coming out of the owner's pocket. So the bigger the budget, the bigger the hole in the owner's wallet.
NUKE: So what kind of a person ...
VINCE: A fanatic, a passionate person. People do it for the love of the game.
Coffeetime, when they got in, they were spending a lot of money. They had nobody in the stands, no one. But they had a great team and won eight of nine championships.
NUKE: Same thing with Ottawa.
VINCE: He also lasted three years. At a certain point in time some of them have to ask what they are doing it for. Is the personal satisfaction worth the financial cost?
NUKE: Letís talk about Vince Ursini. Youíve watched over the league for a bit now, what were some successes during your tenure?
VINCE: Well we had several firsts. The fact that the prices of franchises increased rapidly, not only new franchises but existing franchises sold for really nice figures. The television show, that was a first.
The calibre of play. In the initial years, there were exceptional players playing amateur soccer and not playing in this league. Why? Ö because some of them were getting paid more.
NUKE: Amateurs getting paid more than professionals, thatís a curious thing.
VINCE: In the last few years, the league has attracted the best players with the exception of college bound athletes who would risk losing their U.S. college scholarship eligibility. People wanted to play in the league because it's the best league to play in. I'm very proud of that because we have attracted the best players. They have come out of the woodwork. I could not believe the talented youngsters that came out of nowhere.
NUKE: The league has no draft, where and how do the teams find their players?
VINCE: Through tryouts, through the affiliated teams and word of mouth. We are considering setting up a draft.
NUKE: How about your disappointments?
VINCE: I'll give you one more success and that will lead into disappointments. Initially, we had the owners really working together. I was basically the glue that kept everyone together and focused in one direction. Everyone spoke very positively and we had momentum with more and more people looking favourably upon the League.
Last year, it became a bit divisive. We didn't have the cohesion and you saw what happened with Ottawa and a couple of other teams. I was surprised they grew apart.
The only good thing was that we got to see in short order how things could quickly fall apart if they're not united and working together. Owners often forget that they are not only playing in a league. They are partners and shareholders in a league. And they lost sight of that.
Last year we had several lows. Last year we were disjointed. You are only as good as your last game. I think we had a bad game last year.
NUKE: Were you disappointed that you lost 3 franchises since 2002?
VINCE: No, not at all. From my perspective and the amount of work I had to do, I'd rather have fewer solid franchises. Yes it's a statistic that the number of teams have decreased but we have a fine number for a league. The next jump you would like to see is to 16 teams.
You must remember that two of the teams were thrown out. The third was a sale. The new franchise, the Border Stars, is hopefully a sign of what's to come.
No, I don't even think of it. I don't even think of the teams that are gone. I just want to make sure that the teams that are here now are committed.
NUKE: You are a busy person. You hold two high profile positions in soccer. Besides chairing this league, you are also the treasurer of the Ontario Soccer Association, the country's largest provincial association. In November, you are going to have to make a choice whether you are going to continue on with both jobs.
VINCE: That's true. Correct.
NUKE: Have you made the choice?
NUKE: Have you decided anything?
VINCE: No I haven't.
NUKE: You've been in the chair here for about three years but you've been associated with the OSA much longer.
VINCE: I think 14 years. I think I've been treasurer for 13 years.
I've enjoyed both positions. I have a personal challenge. I have a few things I'd like to do.
At the OSA, I've been very happy with the financial turnaround of the association. I'd like to see a day when the soccer centre is contributing substantial sums of money so that we can fight over what programs to spend the money on. That's coming soon.
NUKE: What about the CPSL, wouldn't you like the see the gate improve?
VINCE: Well yes, but the CPSL is more of a long term venture. There are a number of things. I'd like to see some expansion. The CPSL requires a lot more time and effort, a lot more than I can volunteer.
NUKE: Let's say that once again. You are volunteering. You are not getting paid by the CPSL. You are a volunteer.
VINCE: That's right.
NUKE: And they are getting your services pro bono.
VINCE: They do cover my expenses.
NUKE: But your services and your knowledge they get for nothing.
VINCE: Even though I've called owners crazy, my time is money and I guess I'm just as crazy as they are.
My recommendation, even last year, was that the league have a commissioner. You really need someone who is paid on a fulltime basis to run the league, do things, and make decisions that I'm making. But beyond that, someone needs to really get in the driver's seat and steer the league forward.
I have to admit that no matter how much time I am spending, and it is a lot, yet, it still is a part time effort and part time effort yields part time results. And that's reality.
NUKE: We come back to benchmarks again. Paid commissioner, well paid coaches, general managers, marketing people.
VINCE: Coaches have been paid very well. I know of several instances where coaches have been paid very well - very, very well. Marketing people, they'll be on a commission basis so they'll earn based on how they perform. I think that the office will expand, there's a lot of work that has to be done.
The owners are fighting with their own budgets. Everything costs money but I think we're moving in that direction. Itís got to be a transition and you're not going to add an additional $5,000 to league fees for each team in one season.
At the same time, this is why, even with expansion, if we can expand by maintaining some minimal financial requirements, not a low threshold, but what we feel is a minimum amount to ensure the success of the teams and the league, that will help to bring about the expansion much more quickly.
If we do expand to Quebec as we envision, we're looking at another office being operated out of Quebec specifically to meet the demands of the French province and language and that is a specialized area. I don't think we're too far around the corner. My feeling is that it's either going to happen quickly or it's not going to happen for quite a while.
NUKE: And your frustrations, what about them?
VINCE: Being understaffed is a real frustration. Taking too much time in dealing with issues is another. I love this job because I enjoy the challenges and I enjoy the battles. The biggest satisfaction maintaining my objectivity in every decision I make. The owners know that I'm not here to be popular.
I'd enjoy being a commissioner if that was ever in the cards because itís a very fulfilling job. I can take the criticism. I just wish I was here fulltime to be able to give it all I had to really address and push things a lot faster.
NUKE: Iíll bet you qualify, youíve already done commissionerís school.
VINCE: Call it the school of hard knocks.
Really, I have to thank the owners because in the first few years, and honestly, I knew very little of the senior game, let alone the professional game in this country. It was a real education for me. With the decisions I had to make, I just applied a very simple formula: objective, fair and firm in making decisions and applying rules.
However, having the older folks, the guys who have been around and seen it all before, seen everything come and go, they would advise me and tell me what their thoughts were but they'd still give me the reins to make my own choices; and sure enough, many times they were right. I've learned to respect them.
Although a lot of them in the past have been criticized by a lot of individuals, especially by people in the amateur game, these owners are quite unique. Any owners, when they're putting in blood, sweat, and tears like any other volunteer and then they're putting their hard earned money in after, that's something that you can only have nothing but respect for them. That's why they're so passionate.
Sometimes, people don't understand their passion and how vocal they are. They're intense, more intense than some of your volunteers who are very intense to begin with, so it's been a great experience. I know I've grown because of it and I'll be happy when I see the league coast to coast .
That's a big challenge but it's something that can be accomplished with time.
NUKE: How does this happen?
VINCE: The first thing is if we can get the trust of everyone across the country to believe that this is not an eastern league or an Ontario league that's trying to push itself across the country but that it's truly a league that wants to be truly national.
My whole intention in bringing it to the national level is to have regional representation and regional control so that people don't feel that they're being controlled by somewhere, someone or somebody in a different part of the country. I think that I will try to insist in it being a very democratic structure.
NUKE: Can you find, let's say, 10 people right now to do it?
VINCE: Really you're saying one per province. Well heck I can tell you that you can easily get a couple of people per province to participate. That's the next step.
You set up your national structure. You actually have a mirror image of the CSA. You would have your national professional body, your regional professional committees and they would then work in the regions to develop the game because the game is so different and each region is so different.
NUKE: One last thing. Never mentioned are the fans. The game, other things, yes. This is an ownerís league or maybe a playerís league but not a fanís league. For the fan, it's not only the time spent at the stadium. It's fan talk. It's talk about the league. It's talk about the players, the coaches, the schedule. It's talk about the big game of the week. And much, much more.
VINCE: Contrary to the first years of the league's operation, we have made huge strides that way. The soccer show has done a tremendous amount. We do have a following there, not in huge numbers, but we do have really diehard followers at the local level.
It's a challenge for most of the teams to work on trying to attract fans and they are having more and more success. We've asked teams to develop a five year plan. Weíve set some benchmarks for them and that's what they should be working on. If they are not, then they are not doing their job or they don't have the money to pay for expertise to bring the people in.
You try to create a situation where you have owners with the money needed to run a proper organization, paying people the proper amount of money and then the wheel goes around. Take Brampton, they are noted for having great atmosphere at their games. It was also great to see the work that the Border Stars are doing.
NUKE: The Stars have a got a ticket contest going, that's a fan thing.
VINCE: Exactly. Honestly, I think there just isn't enough effort put into it by many of the clubs. I've been asked this question many times but if someone knew the secret of getting bums in the seats, that person would make a fortune. As we try to find out the secret, we are all counting on the future generation to become spectators.
I think we have a niche with the exceptional youth amateur players being able to play at a competitive level and still play with their teams through our affiliation agreement. As soon as we get these players exposed to this higher level, it will surely help in their development and also help create awareness. We are creating awareness with the youth clubs.
People know that there is a CPSL. People know that the players are aspiring to play in the CPSL and we've seen a lot of players move on. We're fulfilling our role. The CPSL is not the be all and end all, it's a stepping stone in the development of young players wanting to make a career playing soccer. The soccer is exceptional, you're looking at young kids mixed in with the vets, it's great soccer, it's entertaining soccer.
We were offered a game of the week three years ago by a national station. We didn't feel we were ready for it. Unless we could assure ourselves that the teams would be able to pack in fans for each game, we would be embarrassing ourselves. From that perspective, we declined it but I think we will eventually move towards it.
As the teams are doing better at the gate, we are going to be pretty close to a CPSL game of the week. Probably two years away at the most.
It's about awareness. We just have to keep promoting the game. If we can get people across the country to work together and develop a tier 2 league, develop our A-League to be our national league, working together as opposed to working at odds with one another, itís the only way we are going to achieve those goals.
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