Ottawa

Redblacks owner aiming to resurrect pro soccer in Ottawa

Jeff Hunt, an Ottawa businessman who played a major role in bringing the CFL back to the nation's capital, has confirmed he's now trying to do the same thing for professional soccer.

Jeff Hunt part of bid to bring Canadian Premier League club to nation's capital

Ottawa Fury FC's Dakota Barnathan, right, fights for the ball against Toronto FC's Tsubasa Endoh during a game in August 2019. While Fury FC have since ceased operations, local businessman Jeff Hunt is now part of a bid to resurrect pro soccer in the city. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

An Ottawa businessman who played a major role in bringing the CFL back to the nation's capital has confirmed he's now trying to do the same thing for professional soccer.

Jeff Hunt, one of the owners of the Ottawa Redblacks, told Radio-Canada Friday he's the local investor in a bid to bring a Canadian Premier League (CPL) club to the city.

The city's former soccer team, Ottawa Fury FC, announced in November it was suspending operations after failing to obtain sanctioning from the governing bodies that oversee the United Soccer League (USL).

Fury FC had played in that league since 2017 and was its only Canadian team.

Social media rumours

Hunt is also a board member with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG), which operated the club, along with the Redblacks and the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's.

Rumours had been circulating on social media for a few days that pro soccer could be returning to Ottawa before Hunt confirmed his involvement this weekend.

Hunt called it "very big news," adding that negotiations with the CPL had been going on for some time.

He also said he was investing on his own, not with OSEG.

Hunt says talks to bring soccer back to Ottawa have been going on for some time. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press/File)

Fury was urged to join CPL

CONCACAF, the governing body that oversees soccer in Canada, had made it clear it wanted the now-defunct Fury FC to be part of the CPL when the league launched in April 2019, rather than continue playing in a league dominated by U.S. teams.

In late 2018 it revoked the sanctioning that would have allowed Fury FC to remain in the USL, despite the fact the start of that league's season was only a few months away.

After a strong outcry from OSEG, CONCACAF reversed the decision. The club played one final season in the USL before ceasing operations.

The seven-team CPL wrapped up its debut season in November, with Hamilton's Forge FC beating Calgary's Cavalry FC in the league's inaugural championship.

If the current bid is successful, Ottawa would be home to the league's eighth club. It's not clear yet when the team would take to the pitch.

With files from Jonathan Jobin

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