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Professional soccer returns to Ottawa in a BIG way

By Josh Lemoine on January 21, 2020


Story update: It’s official!

It has been barely two months since Ottawa Fury FC announced it was suspending operations, but already (and incredibly) a new club looks ready to step in and fill that void.

Friday evening, TSN1200’s AJ Jakubec confirmed that Jeff Hunt would be the Ottawa-based frontman for a new club that will play in the Canadian Premier League (CPL). The new club is financially backed by a major Spanish club, widely rumoured to be the legendary Atlético Madrid, and would aim to begin play at TD Place in 2020. That’s right, THIS year.

Social media started buzzing at the start of the week with rumours of local and international interest for bringing a new club to Ottawa.

Before this week, Ottawa was a known target for expansion for the CPL, but was seen as a few years away from getting off the ground. Should current reports be confirmed,

Atlético Madrid’s involvement and financial backing provides immediate credibility to the new Ottawa soccer club, and elevates the profile of the entire CPL, which kicks off just its second season this spring.

Ottawa will be the eighth team to join the national league. The news has garnered attention from local, national, and international media.

Atletico Madrid’s João Félix with FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi looking on. Photo: @Atleti (Twitter).

In 2019, Atlético Madrid, valued at just under a billion dollars, ranked as the 12th most valuable soccer club in the world, as per Forbes Magazine.

The prospect of an Atlético Madrid-backed club makes sense on a number of levels. First, ‘Atléti’ are known to be looking at ways to grow their brand internationally. They’ve invested in India (Atlético de Kolkata) and Mexico (Atlético de San Luis) and have marketing partnerships with several clubs around the world.

Second, thanks to the recent success in Europe of players like Alphonso Davies and Ottawa’s own Jonathan David, Canadian soccer players are going to be taken more seriously internationally.

Former Fury FC player and manager Julian de Guzman (one of the rare Canadians that has had a successful career in Europe) once said “a Canadian soccer player in Europe was taken as seriously as a Brazilian hockey player coming to Canada.”

That attitude is beginning to change, and Atléti may see significant value in developing a scouting network in Canada, which, with a club in Ottawa, could set up a lucrative pipeline to Europe for the untapped reservoir of Canadian talent.

Ottawa’s Jeff Hunt is the local investor in a new Canadian Premier League club backed by a Spanish club, Atlético Madrid. Photo: @Ottawa67s (Twitter).

Jeff Hunt’s involvement in the endeavour puts a trusted local face at the forefront. Hunt, who stepped down as President of OSEG in 2018 but remains a minority owner of the group, is arguably the most trusted businessperson in Ottawa sports.

Credited with saving a struggling 67’s franchise, Hunt also played a key role in bringing CFL football back to Ottawa, and the success the RedBlacks have enjoyed in its first few seasons. The new soccer club would surely be his primary focus. His financial investment with the club will be on his own, and not as a member of OSEG.

It is rumoured that for a team to play in 2020, the CPL has set a deadline of January 31 to get a deal done, though sources have told Apt613 that a deal is so imminent that CPL clubs have already been advised to expect an Ottawa club this season, while other outlets have indicated a deal may be done already and an announcement could come in the next week.

While the new club is unlikely to carry on the Ottawa Fury FC name, several high profile players from the club remain unsigned, including the likes of Gatineau’s Maxime Tissot and Ottawa’s Antoine Coupland and Jadon Vilfort. It is being reported that several former Fury FC players have the Ottawa situation on their radar and may join the startup CPL club.

Due to the CPL’s current “split-season” format, if the club plays in 2020 it could start as early as this April, at the start of the Spring Season, or they could wait until July and begin competing at the start of the league’s Fall Season. It is also unknown whether, due to scheduling, an Ottawa club would be allowed to compete in this year’s Canadian Championship competition.

More to come as this story develops.