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.