EDITORIAL – OneSoccer has been broadcasting games since the inception of the Canadian Premier League in 2019. Games were shown regularly as they covered all types of content in Canadian soccer. This was the case until last Wednesday as OneSoccer lost rights to CPL, CanMNT, CanWNT, and the Canadian Championship.
OneSoccer Legacy: How It Helped Canadian Soccer
The Facts Between Mediapro Canada and Canada Soccer Business
BREAKING: Canadian Soccer Business is withdrawing broadcast rights to Canadian soccer from MediaPro, I’m told.
CSB arguing MediaPro defaulted on majority of rights fees for 2023.
Sounds CSB could now share rights with new broadcast partners. 1/2
— Joshua Kloke (@joshuakloke) January 25, 2024
On Wednesday, it was announced that Mediapro Canada, who owns OneSoccer, lost the rights to the CanMNT, CanWNT, CPL, and the Canadian Championship. This was originally reported by Joshua Kloke of The Athletic.
This means that for the first time, CPL does not currently have an outlet to show their games. Both Mediapro Canada and Canada Soccer Business have accused each other and have now taken it to the Ontario court. Now, an article can be written just on this dispute between Canada Soccer Business and Media Pro Canada. However, this article will look at the positives of OneSoccer and what it meant for Canadian soccer.
Canadian Premier League
Up until a few days ago, OneSoccer broadcasted all the games of CPL, even the games that were on CBC from 2019-20.
What is important to note is that it launched in total eight clubs with their first-ever game (the now defunct FC Edmonton played in the second division of U.S. soccer before 2019).
OneSoccer was launched on April 26, 2019, one day before the first-ever Canadian Premier League game, that took place between York9 FC (now York United FC) and Forge FC. Ryan Telfer scored the first-ever goal in league history, which was shown on OneSoccer and CBC.
This was just one of the many games shown on OneSoccer. It also was the original home of some of the rivalries like Forge FC-Cavalry FC and the Cavalry FC-Pacific FC rivalry.
It also hosted the first five champions of the CPL, with Forge FC winning four of them, while Pacific FC won one in 2021.
What the CPL Meant to Canadian Soccer
The CPL created many jobs for local players in Canada. This is what Mason Trafford, a former central defender of Cavalry FC, said this about the Canadian Premier League (source: Mitchell Tierney, Digital Content Producer (@mitchelltierney)):
“What I always tell people is we are not only building a brand and building a club in Calgary, but we’re also building an industry in Canada as a whole,” said Trafford. “So there’s like this double effect to the startup nature of what we’re doing. Everybody from the CPL office to all eight clubs are in a similar boat.”
This is true, the CPL created a place where players can get playing time and show their skills. What is also true is that attention of the league came predominantly from OneSoccer. This is especially true since 2021 after CBC no longer broadcasted the games.
How does one get a player like Joel Waterman to go from Cavalry FC or Lukas MacNaughton from Pacific FC to Toronto FC? Sure, the CPL does play a role, but people scouting these players, most likely watched them via the OneSoccer stream, that was also available on Telus and Fubo TV.
Canadian Championship/Concacaf Champions League
Surprisingly, the Canadian Championship and the Concacaf Champions League (now called the Concacaf Champions Cup) was not shown on mainstream TV with OneSoccer present, even though that was the case beforehand. OneSoccer broadcasted all the games for these two competitions including the three Canadian MLS teams.
The streaming service showed all three MLS teams win the Canadian Championships from 2019-23. This included the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, who have won two straight Voyageurs Cups.
It also showed upsets, like Cavalry FC upsetting the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the 2019 Canadian Championship and Pacific FC eliminating the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the 2023 Canadian Championship. This is what the Cavs head coach, Tommy Wheeldon Jr., said in 2019 (source: Har Johal of Daily Hive):
“This is fantastic, I’m proud of these guys,” Cavalry FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr said post-match. “Whether it’s the guys who came with me from the PDL or whether it’s the guys that started the CPL, whether it’s the first leg at home at Spruce Meadows, this has to be up there as one of the greatest victories we’ve had.”
Also shown was the accomplishment by Forge FC, who became the first-ever CPL team to make the Concacaf Champions League in 2022 after making the final four of the 2021 Concacaf League.
The CanMNT had some of trouble broadcasting their games before the emergence of OneSoccer. In J.P. Moczulski’s, The Globe and Mail, this is what he said about the state of Canadian Soccer before OneSoccer was born:
“Not so long ago, the only way the Canadian men’s national soccer team landed on television was for Canada Soccer, the governing body overseeing the sport in this country, to buy the airtime: paying a network to broadcast and produce the games.”
Maxime Crepeau “We’re going to win. We’re going there TO WIN.”
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) March 27, 2022
The highlight with the Canadian men’s soccer team was the broadcasts of the final stage of World Cup qualifying. In that time period, Sportsnet agreed to broadcast almost all games simultaneously with OneSoccer. This included the game where Canada qualified for the first-ever FIFA World Cup in 36 years with Gareth Wheeler and Terry Dunfield doing commentary for the game. Additionally, TSN showed the only other World Cup qualifying game in the final stage of World Cup qualifying.
This allowed people to have genuine excitement for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was shown exclusively on TSN, and OneSoccer played a big part. This was true even for World Cup preparation, when OneSoccer broadcasted all the games leading to the World Cup.
Probably the biggest plus of OneSoccer was how they showed all the friendlies of the CanMNT/CanWNT. Some of these friendlies would probably be considered too niche for big broadcasters like TSN and Sportsnet, but OneSoccer produced them with great quality.
What should also not be forgotten is how OneSoccer broadcasted all the related Concacaf competitions, including the Concacaf Gold Cup.
The CanWNT is like the CanMNT in terms of broadcasting in many ways. OneSoccer made sure to make a concerted effort to show most or all the games for the streaming service. A perfect example was the 2022 Concacaf W Championship. Most of those games were on tape delay on CBC, which made OneSoccer such an important service, as you can watch the game live and watch it again after the game is over with its fantastic replay feature.
Yes, OneSoccer does not have the rights to the Olympics, so they did not broadcast the CanWNT memorable Olympic campaign in Tokyo 2020. However, as with the men’s team, the build up of the women’s national team before and after the Olympics is something to note. The 2021 SheBelieves Cup and the two friendlies Canada had against Wales and England is one example. The more notable one was the Celebration Tour games.
Attendance at BMO tonight: 29,212
The largest crowd ever for Canada Soccer’s National Teams in the province of Ontario — men or women — eclipsing the mark set last March when the Men’s National Team qualified for the FIFA World Cup on 27 March 2022. #CANWNT pic.twitter.com/3DfdxPSRdW
— Paulo Senra (@paulosenra) September 27, 2023
OneSoccer showed all of these games, going from Ottawa and Montreal to Vancouver and Victoria. They made sure that these players were celebrated for the accomplishment they made with winning Gold in Tokyo 2020. It also hosted the highest-ever attended national team game in Ontario, which was the CanWNT qualifying for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
What It Meant for the Soccer Media
Lastly, the soccer media, the unsung heroes on all this, had a platform to express their viewpoints. The analytical minds of Kristian Jack and Oliver Platt gave great analysis on the games played on OneSoccer. Andi Petrillo was a fantastic host for the streaming service and Gareth Wheeler, love or hate him, has a unique personality that gave OneSoccer character. Dunfield also deserves a mention as well as Adam Jenkins, who broadcasted a lot of CanWNT games.
Jenkins was the one who broadcasted many women’s national team matches, including the game on December 5 and also did quite a few CPL games. There were also former national team players appearing on the platform like Ian Hume, Kaylyn Kyle, Diana Matheson, and Clare Rustad, who all appeared on the show.
There was also former York United FC midfielder, Jordan Wilson, who after retiring became a television pundit for OneSoccer.
Also, a shoutout to other people who played a big role with OneSoccer like Charlie O’Connor-Clarke, Josh Deming, and Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic, who all also played a role in shaping OneSoccer. They and all the people not mentioned deserve praise for growing the game of soccer in Canada.
What Is Next for Canadian Soccer?
— Derek Martin (@WandererDerek) January 25, 2024
Derek Martin, the founder and president of the HFX Wanderers FC, tweeted this after the news broke of CSB ending their agreement with OneSoccer. There are also tickets still being planned to be sold with Atletico Ottawa, which seems to indicate that there might be some hope for the CPL.
It is too early to speculate, but hopefully there is a plan b when this announcement was made. There is also the idea of maybe having something like CEBL+. It is not of the same quality as OneSoccer, but most of the content and services are free in regards to the Canadian Elite Basketball League for those who live within Canada.
What should not be lost though is OneSoccer’s legacy. It did a fantastic job in launching the Canadian Premier League and telling the stories of the players in the league. Without OneSoccer, there is likely no CPL. Now, CPL will look to create a future without OneSoccer for the first time in the league’s history.
Photo Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports, of a Noah Christoffer Jensen Headshot on May 24, 2023.
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