Pro soccer returning to Ottawa this spring

Spanish soccer giant Club Atlético de Madrid has purchased an expansion team for Ottawa in the Canadian Premier League.

Spanish soccer giant Atlético de Madrid behind new Canadian Premier League franchise in capital

Saul Niguez, centre, celebrates his goal for Atlético de Madrid. The Spanish soccer club will field a Canadian Professional League team in Ottawa this spring. (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Spanish soccer giant Club Atlético de Madrid has purchased an expansion team for Ottawa in the Canadian Premier League (CPL).

The Ottawa side will become the professional league's eighth team when the CPL's second season begins in April.

The club will play at TD Place, also home of the CFL's Ottawa Redblacks and will be called Atlético Ottawa, said former Redblacks president Jeff Hunt, also a one-time owner of the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's.

Hunt will serve as a "strategical partner" for the new soccer team.

"It's very important to [Club Atlético de Madrid] and their global expansion that in markets like in Canada, for example, they have somebody that's local, that's on the ground in Ottawa," Hunt told CBC in a phone interview late Wednesday.

"I talk to them quite a bit about the dynamic of the Ottawa-Gatineau market and the history of sports in Ottawa, and how, for example, Ottawa teams weren't always great at including the francophone Gatineau market."

The team colours will be based, Hunt said, on Club Atlético de Madrid's: red, white and blue. The team plans to reveal its logo on Feb. 12.

End of Fury opened door for new club

The Ottawa market opened for soccer late last year when Ottawa Fury F.C. suspended operations following a prolonged sanctioning battle.

The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group made the decision to pull the plug on the Fury when it couldn't get permission to play in the United Soccer League in 2020.

Ottawa will join CPL teams in Langford, B.C., Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto and Halifax.

Existing rivalries between Canadian cities could help stoke interest in the CPL in Ottawa, said Hunt.

Atlético de Madrid, founded in 1903, has won 10 La Liga titles. The club reached the UEFA Champions League final in 2014 and 2016.

New owners 'delighted'

"We are delighted to be part of such an exciting project in an amazing country," Atlético de Madrid CEO Miguel Angel Gil Marin said in a statement.

"We would like to bring our expertise to a very strong and structured league and will work together with the CPL and the rest of the clubs to contribute to the growth of Canadian soccer. We want Ottawa soccer fans to be able to feel proud of belonging to the Atlético de Madrid family so we can start sharing our values with them."

CPL commissioner David Clanachan was happy with the news.

"We are thrilled to welcome Ottawa as the Canadian Premier League's eighth club and Club Atlético de Madrid as our newest owners of the Ottawa club," Clanachan said in a statement.

"We are very excited to launch the club with one of the world's most iconic and successful soccer brands and look forward to them taking to the pitch for the 2020 CPL season."

With files from Radio-Canada's Jean-Francois Poudrier


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