Rick Zamperin: Forge FC makes a bold move for Match No. 1

The new Forge FC colours will be orange, platinum and white with a special black-and-gold jersey to be worn once per season. Luke Vermeer / 900 CHML

If you haven’t heard, professional soccer is coming to Hamilton this spring.

Forge FC is Hamilton’s entry in the fledgling Canadian Premier League, joining other clubs from around the nation, including Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Victoria and Halifax.

Aside from attempting to put an entertaining product on the pitch, one of the league’s main goals is to develop future generations of Canadian soccer players.

READ MORE: Hamilton’s Forge FC to host first ever CPL match against York9

The CPL will play its first game April 27 at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field when the hometown Forge FC hosts York9 FC (Toronto).

On Wednesday, Forge FC owner Bob Young announced the CPL’s inaugural match — dubbed the “905 Derby” — will be free.

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READ MORE: Hamilton’s Forge FC looks to set attendance record with free tickets to opener

In a news release on Wednesday, the team said: “All soccer fans, on a first-come, first-served basis, will be eligible to win tickets to the inaugural match through the Soccer Unites Hamilton contest.”

All you have to do is plunk your name and email address online, and viola, you’re entered to win a seat. Fans who go to the game are also being asked to “make a small voluntary donation as Forge FC looks to raise $50,000 for youth soccer in Hamilton.”

Making the game free is a generous gift on Young’s part, and it is not a move that many others would make. But before you get caught up in the heartwarming gesture, there is a method to the madness.

Making the franchise’s — heck, the entire league’s inaugural game — free to all comers is a calculated plan by Forge FC. This is the team’s — and the CPL’s — first chance at a first impression, and having as many people as possible at Tim Horton’s Field to watch Game No. 1 is crucial from an optics standpoint.

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It’s also a great marketing ploy. By collecting a few thousand names and email addresses through the Soccer Unites Hamilton contest, Forge FC instantly has a bigger database of prospective fans to target with ticket packages and merchandise offers. That’s just smart business.

I hate playing the hypothetical game, but you can’t help but think about the what ifs.

With a capacity of roughly 25,000, what if 20,000 fans show up to the April 27 season opener? What if it is a lot less than that, or a lot more? Either way, we shouldn’t diss the franchise — or herald it as a success — based on just one game that was free to the more than 7 billion people on the planet.

We can have this discussion after the first season — more than two dozen games’ worth of soccer — is in the books. For now, being a soccer fanatic, I’m glad the beautiful game is in town and hope Forge FC and the CPL turn into successful ventures.

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