Skilled soccer coming to Saskatoon or Regina, or each: future proprietor

Al Simpson is determined to see a professional soccer team on the pitch in Saskatchewan – one way or another.

Born and raised, the Regina businessman leads efforts to bring a Canadian Premier League (CPL) expansion team to the province.

“It started for me in 2017 … I was like, ‘what a wonderful idea – Saskatchewan could certainly use the game of the world on a professional level,'” said Simpson.

“I am a lifelong sports fan and a lifelong fan of the Saskatchewan Roughrider. My dad started taking me to the games when I was seven or eight years old and sat in the rider-rookie section … for 50 cents a ticket.

“I’ve always been interested in sports and this special project with the (CPL) just seems to be a matter of course for our province.”

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Rahim Mohamed of the Saskatchewan Soccer Association (SSA) described the province’s interest in football as “massive”.

“I think we’re the biggest or the second biggest team sport (in Saskatchewan). We have over 40,000 participants every year … in football, ”said Mohamed.

“For fans who have watched the games on TV, they now have the opportunity to watch games live and really enjoy them and immerse themselves in the football culture and live game atmosphere of the day of the game.”

He said a professional team in the province would win even more fans for “the beautiful game”.

“I think a future CPL team here in Saskatchewan will have a profound impact … I think that’s what we dreamed of.”

Click to play the video: 'What will the new professional football team mean in Saskatchewan?'

What will the new professional football team in Saskatchewan mean?

What will the new professional football team in Saskatchewan mean?

Brett Levis became the CPL’s first Saskatchewan-born player when he signed with Winnipeg’s Valor FC last May, saying he looks forward to the prospect of the league coming to his hometown.

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“I think it’s incredible news. It is something that is badly needed. It’s something that people have been talking about for a while. Seeing it actually come to fruition, or at least get the ball rolling, is amazing, ”said Levis.

“I’ve seen far too many players with a lot of talent and a lot of skill who just fizzled out because there wasn’t a good path. There was no direct way to take the next step, be it after club soccer or university. And for me this is the perfect step for her. “

The CPL previously announced that Simpsons company Living Sky Sports and Entertainment (LSSE) has obtained the rights to a new club in Saskatoon that is dependent on the construction of a football-specific stadium.

“The key for us, and that is the long-term sustainability of a professional football club, is that we need to have a stadium that allows us to generate the kind of revenue that is needed to support a football team,” said Simpson.

“The league has an average of around 4,500-4,600 fans per game. Some teams are obviously higher than others to reach this average. We have to have over 4,000 fans per game to be sustainable, and we think that can be done in Saskatoon. “

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Fans return to the stands in Saskatchewan after COVID-19 restrictions lift – July 11, 2021

This wouldn’t be the first professional soccer team to try their hand at Bridge City after the now-defunct Saskatoon Accelerators endured a handful of seasons in Canada’s Major Indoor Soccer League that then collapsed about a decade ago.

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Levis, 28, grew up in Saskatoon and played for the Accelerators before joining the University of Saskatchewan Huskies soccer program.

“I think we actually have quite a few (fans). Remember the old football center doesn’t have a large capacity, but it was definitely full for all of our home games … it was the entire football community, ”Levis said.

“I’m not sure why (the accelerators didn’t stop). In theory, the idea was there, but I don’t think… that kind of football, whether you call it futsal or indoor football, was pretty new I guess. And it was exciting for the first bit.

“Whether it’s sponsorship, advertising revenue, fans coming to games, you need these things for leagues to be successful. And at the end of the day football is played on a large grass pitch, grass pitches with 11 players on each side … and I just find that more exciting. It’s what people are used to. “

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Former Saskatoon Accelerator on next try to create a professional team in town

Former Saskatoon Accelerator on next try to create a professional team in town

All three agreed that times have changed and Saskatchewan might be ready to endorse a professional football team.

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“I think a lot has actually changed … the (CPL) is growing. I think the model they put in place and how they went about launching the league, access to all the games for the fans to make sure the quality of the players is incredibly high. I think the league itself will help the stability side, ”said Mohamed.

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“I think we are a country of immigration, that’s no secret. And I would argue that over the past 20 years, most of these people, families who immigrated to Canada, came from countries where football was either number one in attendance or number one in spectator, or both ” said Simpson.

“We have a changing face of the country and football is their game. It is the universal game. It’s the game of the world.

“We have what we celebrate as this diverse culture and growing diversity in our province … (and) through our diversity we can weave a thread of commonality – namely football – and bring people to a stadium to watch the game with a common Purpose and obviously cheer on your team. That’s good for a community. This is something we all want to try and achieve. “

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While the LSSE is headquartered in Regina, Simpson is focused on a Saskatoon-based team, but said his deal with the CPL could lead to further expansion of the league in the province.

“If I were careful for the next five to seven years, I think there would be a natural rivalry between Saskatoon and Regina, similar to Edmonton and Calgary,” said Simpson.

“Of course we’d love to get Saskatoon going, but at the end of the day, when things don’t go together in Saskatoon and we can’t finance and build a stadium, Regina may be the next logical place to look.

“I shouldn’t say maybe – it will be the next place to look and work hard. And we’ve had preliminary talks with some people in Regina to do something, and those talks are ongoing, but right now Saskatoon is the focus. “

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While on board with the idea of ​​two rival teams, Levis had a few reservations.

“As with growing up in club football, we always had a rivalry with every Regina team. That was just some kind of base, Saskatoon versus Regina, that whole aspect. I think it would be really cool, ”said Levis.

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“I’m a little hesitant about the market and growth. I think we need to see how it succeeds in Saskatoon for example before we try because you want the sport to grow, but you don’t want to push it so far that it is not ready for that growth and then see See how teams break down.

“Saskatoon was a market that … we’re recovering. Whether football, hockey or (or) lacrosse, we gather around our teams and everyone knows that the fans will come to support. I think it’s a great city to have. “

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LSSE has partnered with Prairieland Park as the preferred location for a stadium to get away from the horse racing business. Simpson announced that the goal is to start with around 5,500 seats by renovating and developing parts of Marquis Downs.

“The hard part right now is trying to build the stadium … we are at the stage where we have plans, deep in the development plans, to see what we can do,” said Simpson.

“It is a project that can happen because there is a professional football club that wants to be the anchor tenant. But it is very important to understand and for people to know that the functioning of this stadium requires a financial contribution from the City of Saskatoon and the Province of Saskatchewan in addition to me and Prairieland.

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📸View of the stadium from the west. This concept drawing plans to remove the roof of the existing north stand, which would lead to more seating capacity!

Lots of discussions about this idea.

Both positive and negative. What do you think?

– LivingSkySports (@ LivingSkySport1) June 3, 2021

Regarding a launch date for a new Saskatchewan club to play in the CPL, Simpson said, “2023 could be ambitious. We’ll certainly shoot for that, but I think 2024 is probably more realistic. “

Since its first season in 2019, the CPL currently has eight teams in five provinces and both coasts.

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