CONCACAF needs to reconsider blocking Ottawa from USL play

Ottawa Fury could be prevented from playing in USL Championship in 2019 by CONCACAF

Per a press release on the team’s website, Ottawa Fury have been advised that CONCACAF is seeking to prevent them from playing in the USL Championship in 2019 and force the team to compete in the Canadian Premier League in 2019.

“This action by CONCACAF is unprecedented and simply wrong,” said Mark Goudie, President and CEO of Fury FC’s parent company, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG). “Our lawyers have requested that CONCACAF immediately provide further details on the basis for this decision. We also understand that Canada Soccer will be seeking clarification as to the rationale for CONCACAF’s decision. In the event that CONCACAF does not immediately reconsider its position, Fury FC will take all steps – including legal proceedings – so as to ensure that it will be able to continue providing professional soccer to our loyal and new fans and supporters in a league of our choosing.”

Press Release Ottawa Fury FC 

Ottawa Fury have been playing in American sanctioned leagues since their inception in 2011 when the North American Soccer League announced that Ottawa had been presented an expansion franchise.

After a three year period in which they developed Lansdowne Park, Ottawa Fury FC began their play with NASL behind the coaching of Marc Dos Santos. Ottawa Fury FC would follow a few other NASL teams in 2017 to move from NASL to USL as NASL began their legal battle with US Soccer.

Where the issue lies

The current CONCACAF president is a man by the name of Victor Montagliani. Remember that name. Montagliani was never an accomplished professional but after finding himself the president of the British Columbia Soccer Association, he ran and was elected in 2012 as the president of the Canadian Soccer Association.

Where does the issue lie? In 2016, Montagliani left Canada to become the president of CONCACAF which oversees the North America, Central America and surrounding lands soccer teams and league. Before he left, however, he became an advocate for a simple dream that is coming true in 2019, the Canadian Premier League. 

“It’s wrong,” said USL President Jake Edwards. “Forcing a team to move from the league it is scheduled to play in – and wants to play in – three months before the season starts is unacceptable. Schedules have been set, players signed, season tickets sold. It’s not fair to anyone, including the 35 other teams in our league who are being negatively affected. Allowing this to happen would set a very poor precedent and we’ll do everything in our power to support the Ottawa Fury FC.”  

Ottawa Fury Press Release

CONCACAF needs to avoid doubling down and back this situation up

It’s no secret in the soccer world that the governing bodies of the sport aren’t “respectable.” FIFA has been the scene of investigation after investigation, members of the boards have been arrested on corruption charges, and this has trickled down to other countries governing bodies, including CONCACAF. 

While this is far from a corruption related situation, Montagliani using the weight of CONCACAF to force a team from his country that are under the umbrella of his former job is a farce and a borderline ethical issue in the sport. CONCACAF has no grounds to stomp on USSF’s and CSA’s yard given that both approved Ottawa retaining it’s place in USL Championship.

Unfortunately, in this instance, Ottawa is a victim of circumstance. With Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver on with MLS, Ottawa was the piece that CONCACAF could get on pushing around. The problem that lies ahead is, who does the team turn to? Ottawa has made it clear that they are working to play in 2019, saying in their press release that they will be carrying on ‘business as usual.’

CONCACAF needs to back down from this. They have no grounds to realistically block a team from playing in the league they have spent the entirety of the offseason preparing for. As Jake Edwards, president of USL, said, season tickets have been sold, players signed and other deals struck to help the team succeed in 2019. CONCACAF needs to come down off their high horse and understand the standard being set. 

An overall governing body for countries can’t, and shouldn’t, stick their foot in these issues. The success of the CPL will obviously be something that Fury will watch, but why does CONCACAF feel that they need to force teams into situations? What standard does this set?

The element that seems untouched is the reaction of what the Canadian Premier League sees in this. It’s not confirmed but likely the attempted blocking of Ottawa from participating in the 2019 USL Championship season is due to a possible scheduling issue with Canada’s pro league. 

CPL only has 7 teams and adding an eighth team would help balance out the schedule. However, based on reactions to this on Ottawa’s tweet, the move by CONCACAF has possibly put the CPL into a negative light before the first ball drops for their league. 

CONCACAF needs to be step aside. It should be a team’s choice about what league they play in and Ottawa shouldn’t be pulled in any direction by a governing body. What the governing bodies should be doing is motivating and helping teams achieve their goals not dictating what their goals should be.

Photo credit: Steve Kingsman/Freestyle Photography/Ottawa Fury FC

Author

Brian Cook

Brian has followed Indy Eleven as a supporter since their birth and began covering the team in a number of capacities in 2015. He can be reached at brianfrederickcook@gmail.com or @SoccerwithBrian on Twitter.