Northern Exposure: Will the Proposed Canadian Premier League Thrive or Fail? — Póg Mo Goal (Ireland)

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Northern Exposure: Will the Proposed Canadian Premier League Thrive or Fail? — Póg Mo Goal (Ireland)

by Devon Rowcliffe

A little over 150 years ago, around the time the rules of association football were being drawn up, a club of enthusiastic Irishmen laced up their boots for a game against a charity team known as St. George’s Society. This match did not take place in Dublin or London, but rather in a young colonial city on the shores of Lake Ontario which just a quarter-century earlier had been christened ‘Toronto.’

From this humble beginning, the nascent sport of football spread rapidly across the land of Canada, finding eager participants as far away as Vancouver Island on the Pacific coast of British Columbia just a few years later. Despite its notable soccer history, Canada curiously lacks a domestic national league, making it one of the only countries of its stature, population, size and wealth anywhere in the world to go without.

A previous endeavour to create a Canadian league in 1987 was a financial disaster and folded after just six turbulent seasons. A second attempt now looms at manufacturing a professional soccer league out of the elusive ether that encircles Canada’s most popular participatory sport. Whether this effort will be a success that creates a passion for club football in such urban outposts as Regina and Saskatoon, or instead becomes yet another footnote in an ultimately doomed quest for a national league, occupies the minds of Canadian admirers of the beautiful game.

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Grounds for approval — Plastic Pitch

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Grounds for approval — Plastic Pitch

by Devon Rowcliffe

When you overhear a soccer fan reminisce about the sport, there is a high probability their most enchanting memories originate from stimuli other than the actual games. Experiences such as basking in the first sunshine of late spring, jostling through a buzzing concourse, or seeing the generations-old façade of a stadium gradually ascend and dominate the horizon while travelling to a match. These ephemeral moments of joy, despite being peripheral to the game, often remain the most vivid and indelible of recollections for fans.

But such visceral memories are by no means limited to games held at large stadiums of recent construction. Whether modest venues festooned with decades of character and gradually made inimitable over time, or even fields in public parks seamlessly ensconced into their natural surroundings, smaller soccer grounds can be just as fetching as the more lustrous stadiums found in Major League Soccer.

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Estranged relations in Canadian football — The Set Pieces (UK)

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Estranged relations in Canadian football — The Set Pieces (UK)

Attending Vancouver Whitecaps FC matches prior to 2011 was a brilliant experience. Games were held at a quaint ground nestled into the side of an urban forest that engulfed half of the stadium. Each spring, season openers would be marked by a haze of cottonwood seeds drifting through the air, so abundant that we would have make to sporadic efforts to remove them from our clothing. To the north, a picturesque view of mountains, while the main stand’s concrete skeleton dominated the western skyline.

The venue had a relaxed mood on match days. There was the same anticipation found at any large football ground around the world, but without the aggressive scrutiny or hostile atmosphere. Police were rarely in attendance and the minimal security officials present treated matches as one of their easier gigs and a chance to soak up some sunshine.

But when the club moved up to Major League Soccer in 2011 – thanks to buying their way in, rather than for any on-field achievements – it became a very different entity.

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The top ten fan-owned clubs in English football (part 1) — Back Page Football (UK)

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The top ten fan-owned clubs in English football (part 1) — Back Page Football (UK)

by Devon Rowcliffe

An enticing concept has been quietly incubating within English football in recent years: supporter ownership of clubs. While it may be the norm in places such as Germany and Argentina for football fans to own their club, it’s still a fairly alien idea in the United Kingdom and most of the Commonwealth.

The allure is obvious: football fans and club owners often disagree about how clubs should operate. Wealthy owners – often with minimal connection to the club’s community – tend to prioritise the pursuit of profit, and take financial risks that can destabilise or endanger clubs. Football fans, however, view their club as a community asset rather than as a business, and desire to be treated loyally as valued club members instead of as replaceable customers.

As English football becomes increasingly expensive – and stadium atmosphere inevitably dwindles – some fans are turning to supporter ownership as the antidote to the corporatisation and sanitisation of the game.

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