Montreal Impact files for bankruptcy

The Montreal Impact have joined the scrap heap of failed Canadian soccer franchises.

Owner Strato Gavriil, who is president and CEO of Ionian Financial Group, the team's major sponsor, said the company operating the team has filed for bankruptcy.

"I purchased the rights to the franchise last October and since then, everything possible was done in terms of marketing and promotion to get the soccer club out of its critical financial situation," Gavriil said in a statement issued Friday.

"I now have to recognize that I have not succeeded."

The 5-8-1 Impact were to play in Hershey on Friday night before heading to Pittsburgh for a game Saturday. A team spokesman said both weekend games would go ahead as planned.

Gavriil, however, said the current ownership would not be involved with the weekend games.

Calls to the A-League were not immediately returned Friday.

"We are very sorry to have had to make this decision but it did not make any business sense to carry on," said Gavriil.

Nicole Hartrell, chief executive officer of the Toronto Lynx, said the A-League was taking over the Impact and would run the team the rest of the season.

"Obviously this is a black eye for soccer again in Canada," said Hartrell.

Montreal is one of three Canadian teams in the 21-club A-League, along with the Lynx and Vancouver Whitecaps. The only other current pro Canadian team is the Toronto ThunderHawks of the indoor National Professional Soccer League.

The last Canadian pro team to fold was the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL, who closed shop last November.

Founded by the Saputo Group in 1992, the Impact joined the A-League in 1993. They won the league title in 1994 and then ran off three straight regular season championships.

The team did not play in 1999, reportedly over a dispute with the league over rights payments. The Impact returned to the fold last season, posting a 12-13-3 record.

Joey Saputo eventually diluted his ownership of the team, taking on new partners, and last October it was acquired by Ionian Financial Group.

The Impact have shuffled players in recent weeks, releasing former national team captain Randy Samuel for what the veteran defender said were financial reasons.

By Neil Davidson