Details of the CPSL press conference of Thursday May 19, 2005 held at Toronto City Hall members lounge at 12:30pm. (by Rocket Robin)
The assembled press who were mingling in the Members Lounge were invited by Councilor Peter LoPreti into the visitors gallery to see the last minutes of the City Council meeting before their lunch break. LoPreti said a few works to council followed by new CPSL commissioner Cary Kaplan and finally soccer fan/mayor David Miller. Miller praised the league and soccer as a uniting force for the city from what he remembered about the last World Cup. The league had brought enough mini-balls to give to each councilor and a soccer jersey for the mayor (ack I forgot to ask later what team the jersey was a replica of). The speeches would make members of the Voyageur message board cringe as they mentioned how the CPSL is the only professional league in Canada and how it will expand across Canada (I noticed that this point wasn't mentioned in the actual press conference). Some CPSL players who've moved on to Europe were named. Also mentioned were how soccer is such a popular sport with kids and the immigrant communities. Many of the council were chatting amongst themselves or bored but the word 'gift' perked up some ears.
Council was adjourned until 2:00pm which made the place empty out for lunch. The press conference went back to the members' lounge where it was soon called to order at 12:40pm. Stan Adamson the CPSL Chief of Media Relations was the MC for the afternoon. He started introductions by giving a bio of commissioner Cary Kaplan who was named executive of the year when he was an AHL hockey official for the Hamilton Bulldogs. He is also currently the president of Cosmo Sports. Cary Kaplan came up and gave thanks to former CPSL commissioner Vince Ursini (Ursini is now the CFO of the Canadian Soccer Association). Also Guy Bradbury from the Ontario Soccer Association, Peter LoPreti, Dick Howard, Stan Adamson, and the team owners.
Kaplan's thoughts today were that we must improve the 'bad' image of soccer in this country. We must grab our international soccer fans who live in this city for example by holding more international games. We must bring more people into the stands at the community level like they do in Windsor. He reminded us "It's never the fans fault" for them not going to the games. He stressed that we must improve relations with the media. We need corporate sponsors (like Locust Sports). He said he'd use the model of a medium sized town's hockey team. The overall improvements will take many years to fully develop.
Stan Adamson then introduced Burt Lobo the president of the Ontario Soccer Association. Adamson then mentioned for facilities how great the Ontario Soccer Centre is and that it now houses the OSA offices after bouncing around some small roomed office space in Toronto. Dan Berger was mentioned for maintaining the OSC. 'Dawn and Karen' are getting the new CPSL forum on the web started with a soccer portal name Turf Monster. (The site is launching June 1st at www.turfmonster.ca). Also introduced was former CPSL executive Chris Bellamy.
Dick Howard was introduced and gave a short speech. He mentioned how important the traditions of teams are. Some of the CPSL teams have long histories. We must have STABILITY. He mentioned how the Toronto Lynx play in the USL. Traditions are important and essential for stability. STADIUMS. He said the CPSL owners are the lifeblood of the league. He said it was disgrace that Toronto doesn't have a venue. Soccer needs its own home for the thousands of international fans in this city. He said soccer success was about giving back to the community. T.E.A.M. 'together everyone achieves more'. Soccer must start to work as a team. Ironically it is working for women's soccer. Kids need the platform to look up to. He gave an example of Brampton's own Paul Stalteri moving up to Europe. The Lynx want to work closely with the CPSL. (he's the media director of the Lynx this year).
Stan Adamson introduced Al Pereira for running Soccer On Line. He also thanked Raphael and Kevin the two young players who gave out the soccer balls. He then introduced Guy Bradbury the President of the Ontario Soccer Association to give a speech.
Guy Bradbury wants to move the game ahead in this province with the CPSL and the Toronto Lynx. They are a critical component of our game and a pathway we must translate that to a better understanding and move young players into the stands to watch games. The Under 20 FIFA world cup is critical for development of soccer in this country. We need this sixth site of the tournament somewhere in Ontario. We have to show some commitment. This is a critical project. For the next four years soccer will be on TV (he mentioned all the tourneys) and this is our time to build support.
Adamson introduced Jean Gandubert (he was an executive for soccer in Quebec for many years). He's now involved with the Oakville Blue Devils. (More about him later in this column). Adamson said there's a new soccer magazine coming out which is a 48 page glossy "Canadian ProSoccer" Season 2005 which they hope will be turned into an Annual. Inside the press kits we were given besides a folio of league announcements and schedules was a mini soccer ball. Four of the bags held a ticket for one of the Locust balls on display including a pale pink shaded ball. Why a pink soccer ball? Well surveys showed that girls love it!
The meeting was adjourned at 1:20pm for us to have a meal of cold cuts and fruit.
Since I'm basically a shy person, I got Saul Markowitz from Nuke Soccer to help me work the room. One of the people I wanted to talk to was the owner of the new franchise Brampton Stallions but I had to have him pointed out. He's Joe Fuliere and I wanted to sort out the story about the team being in the league and then dropping out then coming back in all within a month. Wow! The story goes that Fuliere was a partner in the previous Brampton Hitmen a few years ago but stepped back last year and let the other partner 'run it into the ground'. He didn't want to buy the team off the previous owner and let the CPSL league revoke the franchise. A person (Neil Palmer) did buy the team but couldn't make some of the deadlines. Palmer asked Fuliere if he wanted to be his partner and Fuliere took it up with the league and agreed. The league was very helpful almost as if they wanted to ensure a team stayed in Brampton. They reserved Victoria Park for home dates even when they risked there might be no team. He suggested possibly the league may have even tried running a team for the year to keep up interest. Ralph Taufic who was pro player with the NSL and is a technical director at Oakville soccer club is going to be the coach of Brampton Stallions. Some of the players from the Hitmen will be on this team. (I heard from another source that long time captain Phil Ionadi will play for Oakville Blue Devils this year).
We then talked to Cary Kaplan about the other schedule we had in our package. It was a women's league? Well this year there is a six team Open Canada Cup that all districts approved. It will be made up of district all-star teams. It won't be professional to protect the players' scholarships. This year it is a test study. They are trying for a good tourney--not for the controversy of stealing players. That's just the politics of the OWSL. The league can use the infra structure of the men's game which is already in place. (The teams involved this year are: Border Stars Women, Durham Region Allstars, North York District Allstars, London City Selects, Toronto Supra District Allstars and York Region Lady Shooters).
We then talked to Jean Gandubert from Oakville soccer. He said Oakville is going to try to work soccer from the grassroots up, not from the CSA down. They are stepping up to the CPSL and asked them how they can work together. The CSA will go through some major changes and it's finally the end of the old boys network. The biggest province should be the leader. The structure of this new Blue Devils team is like a triangle. Arnold Milan the owner of the Metro Lions is 'renting' them a team for a year but staying on as a partner. The other partners are the Oakville Soccer club and the Premium Soccer Academy which is part of the Toronto Lynx. The Oakville Soccer club helped organize the Lady Lynx vs. London Gryphons exhibition game earlier this month. Seven players from the Lady Lynx are originally from Oakville. Some of the imported players the Lady Lynx are using this year will be living in Oakville. He thinks within five years they will build a 5000 seat stadium. They have the site picked out in North Park where Toronto's failed Olympic bid had proposed a 20000 seat stadium. Their own proposal would have an indoor facility and soccer fields. It would be a partnership between the club and the city. They would use the Edmonton model--run it like a business but be non-profit. The profits that they make from their indoor facility would help finance the fields. They don't want to buy a CPSL team; they just want to be a partner.
We asked London City owner Harry Gauss whether he had found another Rookie of the Year (I think London had once won the award three years in a row) or hidden Paul Munster. He said not yet but a good prospect that they don't want to put too much pressure on right now. London has one of the women's teams this year. He gave us a history of how London has had good women's teams up to about ten years ago. They won't be competing directly with the W-League London Gryphons. Their media coverage has been great as soccer is a big sport in London competing with only Junior A hockey, Intercounty baseball, and university sports. His 20 year old son Ryan will be the GM of the London women's team and is a natural in front of the press and television cameras. (I agree with that as I saw him as the colour man in the Rogers Cup final last year).
Finally we caught up to Vince Ursini on his way out of city hall. He is now Chief Financial Officer of the Canadian Soccer League. He said there will be some big changes at the CSA!
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