Winnipeg CPL named for famed trio of Victoria Cross medal winners
Winnipeg has a rich soccer history.
The Manitoba capital also has a distinguished military history.
Wednesday those two storied pasts came together when Valour FC was launched in Winnipeg as the newest member of the Canadian Premier League.
Valour FC joins the ranks of York 9 FC, Cavalry FC from Calgary and Hfx Wanderers FC who have previously held launch parties. Edmonton will be introduced Friday and Hamilton and Victoria have both been confirmed for the April 2019 launch of the league.
Valour FC will be run by the Winnipeg Football Club, the entity which operates the Winnipeg Blue Bombers football team. Former Bombers fullback Wade Miller is the president & CEO of the Winnipeg Football Club.
The team will play out of Investors Group Field on the University of Manitoba campus, which was completed in 2013 and has a capacity of 33,500. It has hosted a number of soccer matches, notably at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and features a FIFA two-star rated artificial playing surface, the highest rating that the world’s governing body bestows.
“We’ve seen over the past four years, through the women’s friendly matches and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the passion this city and this province has for soccer,” Miller said at the launch.
“It is time for us to give young Canadian soccer players the opportunity to play professional soccer in Canada. I look forward to seeing which Manitobans are on this pitch next year.
“This is your team, built by our community, for the community.”
The launch was attended by members of the Red River Rising supporters group and numerous minor soccer players.
“We want you playing for this team when you grow up. We want hometown heroes,” said CPL commissioner David Clanachan.
At the launch multiple speakers touched on Winnipeg’s rich soccer history. The first meeting of the Canadian Soccer Association took place in Winnipeg in 1912. St. Boniface’s Norwood Wanderers won the first two Connaught Cup national amateur championships starting in 1913. More recently, the Winnipeg Fury were the last Canadian Soccer League champions as they raised the Mita Cup after stunning the Vancouver 86ers over two legs in 1992.
The name Valour FC honours the city’s military history, specifically when three men from Winnipeg — Cpl. Leo Clarke, Sgt.-Major Frederick William Hall, and Lt. Robert Shankland — each received the Victoria Cross during the First World War. The medal is the highest honour awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Only 73 Canadians received the Victoria Cross during the First World War. Inscribed on the medal is “For Valour.”
Hall, Clarke and Shankland all lived on the 700 block of Pine Street in Winnipeg. The street was renamed Valour Road in their honour in 1925. Shankland was the only one of the trio who survived the conflict.
The Winnipeg launch also coincided with the anniversary of D-Day during the Second World War. The Royal Winnipeg Rifles were the first to land on Juno Beach during the invasion of Normandy.
The club logo draws inspiration from the Victoria Cross with its wheat motif harkening to the Cross’ top bar. The V and W are also meant to signify the intersection of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers.
The club’s colours are “Valour maroon”, “wheat gold” and “earth black”. The maroon is also a nod to the Fury’s past in the CSL.
The announcement was a long time coming after Winnipeg and Hamilton were the first two cities granted franchise status from the Canadian Soccer Association at its annual general meeting in 2017.
The Winnipeg Football Club is unique amongst CPL ownership in that they are a non-profit corporation without share capital.
The Winnipeg Football Club has a 13-member volunteer board of directors that includes a member from the civic and provincial governments. The board hires the president & CEO and that person is the only employee who reports to the board. Miller is left to run the business how he sees fit, but his performance is evaluated annually by the board.
The directors serve three-year terms and may only serve two consecutive three-year terms. The exception are the chair, the vice chair and the past chair who each may serve four consecutive three-year terms.
How a start-up soccer club — and all of the inherent growing pains that are typiaclly associated with the game in North America — fits into the business model of a non-profit professional football team remains to be seen. If there are outside investors providing a safety net for the Winnipeg Football Club, there has been no indication of such as of yet.
In 2017, the Bombers reported an operating profit of $5.1 million as they had a second straight winning season after missing the playoffs for four straight years.
The team is, however, still repaying its loan on Investors Group Field. Last year they paid $3.5 million to Triple B Stadium Inc. as part of their contractual obligation in the stadium management agreement.
For the 2016 fiscal year they reported a $2.8 million operating profit, but were $1.65 million in the red for the year after taking their payment on the stadium into account.
The upshot of that is that Valour FC will play in the most expensive stadium in the CPL and will be able to offer all modern amenities to their supporters. The trade-off will the challenge of creating an atmosphere in the stadium that is expected to reduce its capacity for matches, but is still much larger than needed. With the extra capacity, early indications are that Valour FC will keeping ticket prices fairly low.
The club has said that the average season ticket price would be $20 per match for adults and $12 per match for youth.
“We’re going to be ready to get behind this team, to step up for season’s tickets, to cheer on our team and support this endeavour,” said Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman. “I’m ready for it. I know Winnipeg is ready for it. Let’s get behind this team and let’s go. Welcome to Winnipeg to the Canadian Premier League.”