Ottawa’s professional soccer team has announced it will be suspending operations and will not be competing in the USL championships in 2020.
In a letter posted to the Ottawa Fury FC website, team president John Pugh says the decision was due not to the quality of the team, but rather to league politics.
“Why would an established team which made the playoffs in the 2019 USL Championship season, had the 2nd best season in its six-year history, developed a loyal fan base and won a league award for its team and game day operations be suspending operations? Politics,” Pugh wrote in the letter.
Pugh went on to say that the team’s participation in the USL championships hinged on the approval of Canada Soccer, the US Soccer Federation and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF).
“Despite our best efforts over a period of many months, we were unable to obtain full sanctioning and since schedules must be developed, players signed and tickets sold, we simply ran out of time,” Pugh wrote.
The team was in a similar position last year, when it had to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be able to play in the USL championships. CONCACAF had considered not giving the Ottawa club the green light to continue play in the U.S. league when a Canadian alternative — the new Canadian Premier League — was set to start earlier this year.
Ottawa had been widely expected to be the CPL’s eighth team. But the Fury, while saying it supported the idea of a Canadian league, said last September that it planned to stick with the tried-and-tested USL, at least for the 2019 season.
Mark Goudie, president and CEO of Fury’s parent company, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, said at a press conference on Friday that the team started the sanctioning process for the 2020 championships in March to avoid any complications. But as of Friday, he said, the team has seen no indication that sanctioning will take place.
Goudie said he believed that the governing bodies were intentionally “dragging their feet” so the team would miss the Nov. 1 USL deadline for scheduling for championships.
Goudie called it a “sad day” for the team and for the fans who have been with the team since 2014.
He also thanked the USL for taking up their cause, despite not being able to hold out any longer to allow them to play in the championships.
—With files from The Canadian Press