HPL – questions and thoughts as it comes down to the wire

Wow. The chatter level is astounding. I said I wasn’t going to post anything else on HPL unless there was something substantial but I think we’ve reached that stage. With the deadline for expressions of interest coming up at the end of the week and BCSA posting them as they come in there’s a lot of talk and growing tension. Here’s some semi-random thoughts…

* First of all, there is no “franchise fee”. I was at a party over the holidays and someone told me they’d heard there was a $100 ooo franchise fee. This rumour apparently came from the Maple Ridge area and made its way to the west side of Vancouver. I mention this because it’s indicative of just how much misinformation is out there. Really, almost 80% of what I’ve heard and read is either totally inaccurate or grossly exaggerated. Some of it falls in the honest mistake category but some of it is definitely agenda driven as people position their bids.

* In the end, there are going to be franchises that are the result of awkward, arranged marriages that would not have happened without intervention. Is it open and transparent? Not really. Is it going to result in better franchises that cover off the geography of the Lower Mainland more logically. Yes. It’s happening at this stage now and from my reading of the application package they’ve left room to call some applicants in for a chat to perhaps persuade them to re-consider options and partners before a final decision is made. Again that’s just my reading of it. This is wet cement at this stage. When it dries we’ll be going with this structure for a long, long time so a little Machiavellian design work in the background is not necessarily a bad thing when you’re dealing with so many entities driven by self preservation, self interest and fear of loss.

* One criteria that is not being openly discussed is “will the franchise actually be able to compete at this level”. A quick look at current Metro/Selects divisions and league tables is illuminating. There are expressions of interest from groups that currently don’t even field teams in every division of Metro and Select soccer. If you can’t even field a team at this level can you really legitimately compete at an even higher level when you’ll be expected/required to put a team in at every age group? That’s not even looking at how some of the teams are actually doing in their leagues. It’s not hard to find Metro/Selects teams that are in way over their heads and are really just misplaced gold teams. Yes, getting rid of player movement restrictions will help but I look at Golden Ears/Pitt Meadows being hemmed in by Metro Ford and Abby and wonder where they’re going to draw from. Langley perhaps. But they’ll need substantial growth if they’re going to have enough of a base to be competitive at this level.

* The last area to really get sorted out is Vancouver and Richmond. Lots of talk going on but I’m not going to comment on the various angles and proposals. There will of course be something that comes out of this region by the deadline date. Anyone who says they know what that will look like as of today is lying.

* Maybe I missed it but the one thing that the very comprehensive HPL application package is missing is a review process that spells out how long the franchise is valid for, how and when these franchises will be reviewed and what the consequences of not living up to all the promises that everyone’s going to be making in their application will be.

* The vote in January by the Districts will pass. If it doesn’t, you will still see HPL. It will not be denied and as the North Shore found out, it will not be slowed down.

* Who’s making the final decision on who gets a franchise? We’ve been told it will be a “small” committee but I haven’t seen any names officially attached. I was just told though that Paul Barber, Whitecaps CEO, and Sean Fleming, CSA staff coach in charge of the NTC on the Prairies are on it. Consider that unofficial.

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11 Responses to HPL – questions and thoughts as it comes down to the wire

  1. J Larkins says:

    I read the HPL Q&A the other day and had the sense that Colin Elmes had written a somewhat comprehensive “questions” letter to the BCSA, most of which started with “If the Whitecaps …” What is your take on Whitecaps involvement (real or perceived)? I think Colin in his open letters has had a point, particularly from his own business interest perspectives, but should we otherwise care?

  2. Gregor says:

    Not sure if you’re asking if we should care about the Caps involvement in HPL or Colin’s opinion 😉

    I’ve spoken with Colin several times about this stuff and I know where he’s coming from.

    My take on the Whitecaps involvement is that we are entering an entirely new phase of soccer development with the Caps entering MLS and they should be heavily involved in this HPL process. Will many players from HPL go on to play for the Caps? Nope. But some will get a look and more importantly, many more will aspire to play at that level and that will bring the overall standard of play up. It will lead to more kids getting to experience top flight soccer hopefully as a higher percentage of local players will get opportunities with various national teams, universities and maybe even other professional clubs outside Vancouver.

    As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

    If you like watching soccer and you’re heavily involved in the game here this can only be seen as a step in the right direction regardless of who ends up getting franchises and having support from a true heavy hitter like the Caps should be a very good thing.

  3. Rich H says:

    In response to your bullet points.

    * Hadn’t heard the franchise fee rumor. Would be interesting if there was one though. It really would keep bidders accountable in some ways. You’re not going to through that kind of money away if you don’t believe %100 in your bid and your ability as a club to run a quality program. That kind of money in the league coffers wouldn’t hurt either. Too many negatives though to try and implement it.

    * Machiavellian push for arranged marriages. My guess is some will be ‘easier’ than others. NS/Burnaby sounds very much like the Mountain folks keeping their program alive, which should be fine. I guess West Van are going to have to get on board in some fashion. CMF and Abby should have no issues really. UVI and LVI have to bridge the geographical problem somehow. Van/Rich will come down to ‘political will’ to make it happen. All these marriages will have to work in order for these franchises to prosper. That may not be easy.

    * the ability to compete…with the no boundaries rule coming in, I think players in the lower mainland will be attracted to the best programs, best coaches, best facilities and
    most reasonable cost. Put simply, getting an HPL franchise will be one thing, running a successful one will be another. Are there enough genuinely good enough coaches who have the right attitude, expertise, qualifications and experience needed to work with this level of player? I’m not so sure.

    * Van/Rich. At present I hear it is a combined bid. My guess is that the ‘prenup’ will be the key to the success. If both parties can live in harmony it should be a long lasting, happy marriage. We’ll see.

    * I suspect the small franchise selection committee will also have a Machiavellian twist to it. After all this work, ‘mistakes’ can’t be made by well qualified independent soccer people who may not be as acquainted with the BC soccer landscape as those pushing for HPL.

    All in all, I look forward to and if done well it should be a genuine step in the right direction for elite youth soccer in BC.

    • Gregor says:

      My franchise fee mention was really just to illustrate the scope of misinformation out there and that people should not make too many assumptions about the veracity of what they’re hearing…except of course if they read it here 😉

      The border free environment is huge. It brings so much more accountability to these franchises if people are not limited in their choices. Particularly, when there’s going to be substantial costs to parents involved, they should have an array of choices.

      It’s 12:45pm as I write this and I’d guess I’ve spent 2.5 hours on the phone so far with Vancouver-Richmond HPL issues (which are tied in to amalgamation issues for us on the west side of Vancouver) and I’m not even on the committee that’s looking into it! We really have reached ‘fever pitch’ and there’s a lot of good people working to some very tight deadlines about what’s best for players in this region. Whether I’ll end up agreeing with how it looks is irrelevant. I will, however, support whatever decision is made once it’s finalized because, as I’ve said, I think that this is a progressive step and there’s no way something so disruptive in its implementation is going to please everybody.

      I hope I’m wrong about Barber and Fleming being on the final decision committee. Especially if it’s going to be limited to three (or even five) people. They may be very good at what they do but both lack enough local soccer knowledge. It’s like running tryouts for players and only basing it on what the players do the three times you have them out when you have the opportunity to factor in historical knowledge of the player from past seasons. And no, JJ if you’re reading this and you probably are, that’s not a subtle knock on VFC’s tryout process 😉

  4. Rich H says:

    Apologies, a few typos and poor grammar. Still getting used to my iPad’s little eccentricities!

  5. Larry says:

    Gregor, I’ve read through the various source materials on the HPL and also heard many a rumour about the good the bad and the ugly. The HPL for the high level, elite player would appear to be a very good thing. However, I feel it’s greatest challenge will be in the actual implementation. The structure of the league or the clubs chosen will just be the beginning. The tectonic shift from a Fall/Winter dominated season to a Spring/Summer/Fall season is a very good thing for development. The periodization cycle will coincide with better weather conditions that will have outcome benefits not perceived in the current Lower Mainland system today. Families with kids that are in multi-sport, will be impacted, and may have to make some tough decisions. This will be especially true at the U13-U15 age groups where multi-sport is very beneficial to athletic development should still be encouraged.
    The leads me to ask the question, what happens if half of the top talent goes to HPL and half stays in Metro/Select? On the boys’ side, I believe this is less of an issue as the talent pool is deeper than the girls.
    It seems the HPL will have a huge task in front of them. I believe it’s a good thing but it will no doubt experience some rough patches.
    By the way, thanks for keeping this discussion alive. Such a major change in the soccer system is worthy of significant interaction and commentary.

    • Gregor says:

      Larry, you’re bringing too much common sense to an overheated emotional issue. Very good points. I’ve already from some parents that a much more expensive HPL opportunity that precludes participating in other sports may be something they pass on.

      I think it will fly but there’s going to be some families make tough decisions. Some based on $, some based on time commitment and some based on the sacrifices that would need to be made to other sports they enjoy.

      I think the shift to a Feb to Nov season will prove popular and in true tail waving the dog fashion it wouldn’t surprise me if 4D, 5D and BCCGSL switch over within a few years as well.

  6. Pingback: New Youth HPL league

  7. Kurt says:

    I had some thoughts about the u18 “issue.” I wonder if not simply expanding the u17/u18 age group to say…20+ players (24 ideal?) for the squad. Between the beginning of the season and when u18 players go to university maybe it is the “reserves” play an exhibition game and tournament schedule?

    • Gregor says:

      Hi Kurt,

      The issue of what to do with U18 players who start with an HPL team and then go off to college or university soccer in the fall came up when I was talking with Sara Maglio (Coq Metro Ford) over Christmas. No easy solution but you may be on to something with larger squad sizes. I know the permit system between HPL and Metro/Selects is going to be designed to facilitate quick easy movement of Metro/Select players up to HPL. That will help too.

  8. Kurt says:

    Ya, I hear ya re: the permits. I just wonder where the metro/select/gold teams would get players from that lose them to HPL? Maybe best if they are already on an HPL team rather than leave the metro team? Anyway…it’s a tough one that I won’t pretend to know I have the “best solution ever”!

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