Butler: Taking care of soccer business, Canada style

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Noel Butler, TSN.ca
6/1/2013 5:50:58 PM
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Be it Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh or Boston, whoever perseveres in this year's Stanley Cup Final, the next day their fans will flock downtown for the victory parade.

It doesn't quite work that way when you win soccer bronze at London 2012.

Now some 10 months on from last summer's Olympics, Canada finally gets to celebrate on home soil the astonishing journey of the Women's National Team Sunday afternoon at BMO Field.

Adding an extra layer of spiced cake to the occasion, those damned Gold medal-winning, Centennial-celebrating, formidable U.S. team play the role of invited guests.

When tickets went on sale in late March the public responded so well that all 20,000-plus tickets sold out in about the same amount as time as it takes Abby Wambach to count to six very loudly.

That's all for the history books now.

What can't be forgotten though is that a seismic shift of the soccer platelets occurred when Christiana Pederson blew the final whistle at Old Trafford.

If the immediate dramatic upward shift of interest in soccer across the country were a share price the Mounties would have immediately been called in to investigate a case of insider trading.

Although soccer stabilized to its newly-revised lofty equilibrium over the winter another shift along the demand curve has occurred this week.

Whilst the men's team were lamenting Tuesday night's defeat to Cost Rica in Edmonton, the buzz and excitement around Toronto as the Women's National Team prepared for what is set to be one of the biggest occasions in the 100-plus year history of the CSA has not gone unnoticed.

Ever since Christine Sinclair led her nation out as flag bearer during the closing ceremonies at London, the national governing body has slowly but very assuredly inked new partner agreements behind the scenes.

With each new partner deal the CSA's over-reliance on fees from soccer clubs and associations across the nation diminishes dramatically.

As a result any thought of any more dramatic increase to those fees become a thing of the past, a relic.

It's no coincidence, then - in a week where the spotlight is shining so brightly on the WNT - that the CSA announced the latest corporate partner to jump on board: a manufacturer of sun protection products.

Following practice on Thursday evening Christine Sinclair proclaimed to the media that since London 2012, “Life has changed for a lot of us.”

Although Sinclair was speaking specifically about her fellow WNT players she may also have been speaking about the burgeoning corporate squad which now surrounds and embraces Canadian soccer.

Two of the more prominent ones - Bank of Montreal and Umbro - have been mightily active this week as they utilize the regal stage of Sunday afternoon's encounter to showcase themselves to a growing and captivated audience.

Umbro - identifying the public practice at BMO on Thursday as best opportunity to launch the WNT's new away kits – marked the culmination of 2012's centenary season with bronze in London.

Third place on the podium it may have been, but it may as well have been gold to the nation's apparel manufacturer.

“After the Olympic bronze medal performance we saw an immediate 40 percent spike above anticipated demand,” Umbro Canada V P Mike Shoemaker disclosed to TSN.ca yesterday.

“The support on both the men's side and women's side led to the largest ever year of CSA jersey sales,” he added. “The centenary kit sold out of our limited run and we continued that trend on all CSA product through the year.”

“Thursday night's launch showed us yet again that with success on the pitch and Umbro Canada continuing to provide new and innovative products, the fans will continue to support,” Shoemaker concluded.

BMO, who first moved into the soccer space when the national soccer stadium was developed, also formed a partnership with Canada's first MLS club ahead of Toronto FC beginning play back in 2007.

Over barren years for Canadian soccer BMO stayed the course and has continually reinvested in the beautiful game across the nation. The sponsors have provided desperately needed oxygen for the nation's grass roots.

“As the bank of soccer in Canada, BMO supports all aspects of the Beautiful Game in Canada - from the jerseys of local teams across the country to BMO Field in Toronto,” said Susan Bundy, director of sponsorships at BMO Financial Group told TSN.ca yesterday. “At the national level, BMO has been a proud supporter of the Canadian Soccer Association for more than six years.”

Yesterday at BMO's flagship branch in downtown Toronto fans were given opportunity to get up close and personal to their new idols - something altogether rather unimaginable pre-London 2012.

Bundy explained: “Fans were able to meet their favourite players, get autographs and take photos in advance of the highly anticipated friendly match between Canada and the U.S.”

When BMO first gambled on allocating sponsorship dollars with Canadian soccer back in fall 2006 the business of the sport was rudderless.

Over these intervening years we have witnessed many of Canada's best known companies play out the business of soccer as they jostle for space on the pitch. Demand continues to grow.

Meanwhile for Sunday's match itself and as the configuration process of BMO Field has been completed, the CSA was able to announce on Friday additional seats were now available.

Adding to soccer's newfound lustre some of those tickets are for seats at premium field-side tables where you will be so close to the action you might be able to hear Abby Wambach count.

Welcome Canada to the professional era for soccer both on and off the pitch.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Christine Sinclair (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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