Canadian pro soccer league to play in P.E.I. bubble
HALIFAX -- Canada’s professional soccer league will be playing all of its games in Prince Edward Island this summer.
The Canadian Premier League announced plans Wednesday for a shortened season to be played in Charlottetown beginning Aug. 13.
“We are excited about The Island Games / Canadian Premier League 2020 season and the level of support from the Government of PEI, and City of Charlottetown who have been at the forefront of all our planning with our priority being that every participant and PEI citizens will be safe,” said David Clanachan, commissioner of the Canadian Premier League. “We are appreciative of all their hard work."
Players will arrive on Aug. 8, with the season beginning Aug. 13. The season is expected to conclude in September, with each team playing group stage games, following a single elimination playoffs. A total of 35 matches will be played over 55 days.
"We believe Prince Edward Island is the best place in the country to safely host the Canadian Premier League and we are so proud to receive this special opportunity," said Matthew MacKay, P.E.I.’s Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture. "In these uncertain times, we are committed to doing everything we can to stimulate our provincial economy while following the mandated public health protocols, and market our Island as a premier travel destination, so that when the time is right, we can welcome visitors to Prince Edward Island."
MacKay says the plan has been approved by P.E.I.'s Chief Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, and that the health and safety of islanders was their first priority.
"The soccer games will not be open to the public, and between the hotel and the soccer fields, that's as far as the players will be able to go," said MacKay.
Players will be "completely sequestered" in a bubble, staying in the Delta Charlottetown. Each team will have a floor designated for players, coaches and staff, and all meals will be catered and delivered to the hotel. Players and staff will not be interacting with P.E.I. residents during the duration of their stay.
Any international players arriving to Canada before the events will travel to their home markets first, follow the mandatory 14-day quarantine period, and be tested before they leave to P.E.I.
The league says players will be tested four times before games begin on August 13. The first round of testing has been completed, and all 285 players and coaches tested negative.
The made for TV event dubbed "The Island Games," will begin on Aug. 13 with a rematch of the 2019 season finalists Forge FC vs Cavalry FC. All games will be played to closed doors in a sequestered environment in Charlottetown.
The CPL's original schedule was to have started April 11 and conclude on Oct. 4 with teams playing a 28-game schedule, a plan derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"For about three months we've been having these conversations, and trying to find a way to do it correctly, safely and appropriately. So just really happy it finally came together," said Derek Martin, owner of HFX Wanderers FC.
Martin says he's optimistic that playing in another Maritime city will help the Halifax team continue their momentum from last season.
"We consider the Maritimes our market for the Wanderers, and to be able to do it in our backyard is important," says Martin. "Putting this on is really just about finding a way to engage the fans we have, and hopefully attract some new fans."
"I never thought i'd be playing professional soccer in a tournament in P.E.I., but it's something that we have to make the most of" adds Christian Oxner, HFX Wanderers FC goalkeeper and Halifax native. "I'm sure everyone's going to enjoy it, it's a unique experience and that's the way we have to look at it."
Charlottetown was one of three possible locations for the shortened season, along with Moncton, N.B. and Langford B.C.
"We are appreciative for the time and the input each of these groups put into their bids for consideration. It was a difficult decision between these three great Canadian cities," the league said in a media release.
"Charlottetown is thrilled to have been selected as the hub city for the 2020 Canadian Premier League season, particularly during these challenging economic times," said Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown. "As a highly ranked Canadian sport hosting destination, Charlottetown is always at the top of our game. Hosting the CPL is sport tourism at its core and will drive much prosperity to our capital city. The Birthplace of Confederation is ready to welcome the CPL with open arms and wishes the League the best of luck with what is sure to be a memorable season."
The eight teams in the league are the HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax), Atlético Ottawa, York9 FC (York Region, near Toronto), Forge FC (Hamilton), Valour FC (Winnipeg), FC Edmonton, Cavalry FC (Calgary) and Pacific FC (Greater Victoria).
Organizers are exploring the opportunity to create an exclusive fan zone for minor soccer players from across the Island to share in this excitement while following public health measures. All matches will be broadcast exclusively via the Canadian Premier League’s media partner OneSoccer.
Prince Edward Island has confirmed 36 cases of the disease since the pandemic started, and all of those people have since recovered.
This is a developing story, more information to come.