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UPDATED: Canadian Premier League selects Charlottetown as host of 2020 pro soccer season

The Canadian Premier League will play its 2020 soccer season at UPEI in Charlottetown. The Prince Edward Island Soccer Association was holding a camp there on Wednesday.
The Canadian Premier League will play its 2020 soccer season at UPEI in Charlottetown. The Prince Edward Island Soccer Association was holding a camp there on Wednesday. - Jason Malloy
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Professional soccer is coming to P.E.I.

The Canadian Premier League (CPL) announced on Wednesday afternoon that Charlottetown will be the location for the 2020 season, which is being called The Island Games. All games will be played at the lighted UPEI turf pitch and two other fields, which will be announced later, will be used as practice facilities.

CPL commissioner David Clanachan said several factors, including strong provincial and municipal government support and low cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain), impacted the selection of Charlottetown. The CPL also held serious discussions with Langford, B.C., and Moncton, N.B., as potential locations.

“If you had to pick a safe place right now globally, you would pick Canada,” said Clanachan, who added it’s “fantastic” that P.E.I. currently has no active cases of COVID-19. “If you had to pick Canada and looked around, there are a number of places but I would say Charlottetown and P.E.I. would be very close to the top of the list if you were worried about health and safety protocols and doing all the right things.

“There’s no doubt in my mind Prince Edward Island has led the charge in how to be professional and very careful and very disciplined in the way they dealt with this COVID-19.”

About 300 players, coaches and league officials will arrive on P.E.I. Aug. 8 and will stay at the Delta in Charlottetown. Games will start on Aug 13 with a rematch of the 2019 league final between Forge FC from Hamilton, Ont., and Cavalry FC from Foothills County, Alta.

The season will feature three phases. The first phase, which will consist of 28 games, will include a round-robin format featuring all eight teams. The top four teams will advance to the second phase while the bottom four teams will head home. The remaining four teams will play another round robin, with the top two advancing to a one-game final. A complete schedule will be released shortly and there will be no fans in attendance initially.


WATCH: CPL announcement


Boost to economy

P.E.I. Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Minister Matthew MacKay said there will be about $5 million in economic spinoffs. The provincial government invested $1.5 million on its marketing campaign and MacKay said that will get the province about $12 million in return through advertising on telecasts. OneSoccer will broadcast all games exclusively.

"It's the biggest marketing return that we could ask for, for this kind of money," said MacKay, who stressed the main priority remains very strict safety measures.

Clanachan pointed out the league was able to offer value in broadcast advertising to the province. He noted games will be viewed across Canada and internationally.

“Our mantra always was if we get X, we have to give 3X value back,” said Clanachan.

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown, who was aggressive in lobbying the CPL, is thrilled P.E.I.’s capital city has been selected as the CPL’s hub city. He said the city has contributed a total of $100,000 – $50,000 from its own coffers and $50,000 from the Special Events Reserve Fund (SERF). Brown explained a three per cent levy on hotels and motels funds SERF.

“This is welcome news for the tourism industry,” said Brown, who also stressed the city and province checked off all the boxes in making sure safety was a priority. “They have been severely hit by this pandemic, the restaurants, hotels, motels, bars, retailers.”

Brown said the worldwide broadcasts will provide the city an opportunity to promote Charlottetown as a sports city and place to visit.

Safety first

The league originally hoped to make an announcement on a host city in early July. The biggest hurdle to overcome was developing safety protocols and Clanachan noted the league talked to infectious disease specialists, public health experts, government officials, Canada Soccer, other leagues and sports plus checked with FIFA on its protocols.

“It had a lot of people who had to sign off on it and we were not going to rush that,” said Clanachan. “I get asked all the time, ‘What took you so long?’

“What took us so long is we had to do it right. First and foremost to doing it right is health and safety.”

Isolation

Clanachan said teams have already begun 14-day isolation in their respective cities and all players and coaches will be tested twice before travelling. He received the first round of test results on Monday and they were all negative.

The second round of tests will take place before the teams travel and Clanachan noted if anyone tests positive they will not be getting on the plane. He also confirmed a plan is in place should there be a positive test while on P.E.I.

Teams will also do five-day isolation after arriving on P.E.I., although they will be able to train during this time. Clanachan said teams will be tested as soon as they arrive and he expects another round of tests a few days later.

Clanachan said the CPL will make its database of testing, such as temperature checks and other preventative measures, available to the provincial government.

“We are happy with that and it’s called a partnership,” said Clanachan. “It’s a reputational thing and we want to make sure it’s done right.”

This will mark the second year of operation for the CPL, which is sanctioned by Canada Soccer and CONCACAF.

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