Could Canada have a Women’s professional soccer league in the future? Why is it that Canada didn’t have one already? What is needed to create one? Who will sponsor it? Who will manage it?
There are so many daunting questions to answer and foundations that need to be built but it looks like the ambition is there and soon it could become a reality.
This week, two of Canada’s biggest female soccer stars announced that they are proposing launching a domestic professional Women’s league in Canada in 2025.
Diana Matheson and Christine Sinclair, who both won Bronze with Canada at the 2012 Olympics, believed back then that their success would garner the beginning of Canada’s first women’s teams… sadly it didn’t.
‘I really thought that 2012 was going to be a turning point for this country in bringing professional soccer home. But it never happened. And there’s still no pathways within this country,’ Sinclair told CBC’s the National.
A decade on and the pair are now taking the situation into their own hands.
‘The whole idea behind this is to aim high. So let’s go out from the get-go and compete with the best leagues in the world and bring in the top talent,’ Sinclair said.
What will it look like?
The women have outlined that the still-to-be named league would kick off in April 2025 and run through to crowning their first champion in the Autumn/Fall.
There would be eight teams initially and each team would need to have at least one Canadian international player. It’s the aim to encourage Canadian players currently playing abroad, to come back and play domestically. They are hopeful of bringing back around half of the over 100 players currently playing away.
Sinclair and Matheson have managed to recruit Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Calgary Foothills Soccer Club to the new league.
As far as investment goes, club owners would need to pay a franchise fee of roughly $1M and the a continued running cost of around $8 – 10M to operate them through the first 5 seasons of operation. This is equivalent to how the National Women’s Soccer League in the USA.
Matheson’s own company Project 8, would own 20% of the league while the remaining 80% would be owned by the teams, very like the US model.
What about sponsors and voices?
Air Canada and CIBC have signed on to provide sponsorship for the new league.
Matheson also added that they are also aiming to make the league independent of Canada Soccer but it will still need to be a sanctioned member by 2024. Topping this off, they also want diverse female voices running the show.
‘One of the things is having more diversity to begin with — more women, diverse voices to begin with, more players voices to begin with. And that’s top to bottom. I want women owners, women in the executive, women’s player voices as part of this.’
Canada’s men were recently knocked out of the World Cup. You can find out more about their journey from here:
Marketing is always a key element of a football team’s public image and Matheson believes that their strategy will not restrict how they push the brand or monetize it.
‘We just have way more opportunities to monetize our own brand. Players can do appearances, they can work with companies, they can run camps in a way that they just can’t when they’re playing in Italy and England,’ she told the National.
A team is made up of players after all and the importance should be on their protection. Both women are strongly in favour of having the correct safeguards and protections for players in their league.
In order to prevent previous cases of sexual misconduct and abuse, they have a holistic approach which focuses on women managing women and protecting women.
‘[It’s] unfortunate just how women are treated and taken advantage of. That’s why we need women owners. We need female executives,’ Sinclair explained.
Matheson added, ‘It’s training, it’s vetting, it’s independent reporting systems. And for us, that’s going to mean working with those groups that are really good at doing those things.’
Inspiring young women
Both women want more young women to be inspired to achieve their dreams of playing in the national team.
‘It’s time to change the narrative and inspire the next group,’ Matheson said.
‘I believe kids need to see it to believe that it’s possible to happen. And with the launch of this league, kids will be able to go into their own backyard and watch their heroes play and dream of one day representing their hometown professional club and maybe representing Canada.’
(This blog takes reporting from Sportsnet and CBC.)