October 21, 2018

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Valour FC to begin play in spring 2019

Winnipeg pro soccer club named in honour of local Victoria Cross recipients

Winnipeg’s new professional men’s soccer team will be known as Valour FC, and the team will begin play next spring in the Canadian Premier League, club officials announced Wednesday afternoon at Investors Group Field, where the team will play its home games.

“Whaddaya think?” asked Wade Miller, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Football Club, the organization that will run the club’s operations, following the grand reveal at field level. The Winnipeg Football Club is also responsible for running the Blue Bombers franchise.

The club name is a tribute to the three Winnipeg men — Cpl. Leo Clarke, Sgt. Maj. Frederick William Hall and Robert Shankland — who lived on the same street in the city’s West End prior to serving in the First World War. Although Shankland was the only soldier to return home alive, all three were awarded the Victoria Cross and the former Pine Street soon became Valour Road in their honour. The club’s crest features sheaves of wheat and a design inspired by the Cross. While the kits have yet to be revealed, the team’s colours will be maroon, gold and black.

Joining Miller for the announcement was David Clanachan, the league’s commissioner. Clanachan, formerly the president and chief operations officer of Tim Hortons, enthusiastically addressed the crowd of roughly 300 supporters, mostly composed of local youth players, their parents and their coaches.

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Winnipeg’s new professional men’s soccer team will be known as Valour FC, and the team will begin play next spring in the Canadian Premier League, club officials announced Wednesday afternoon at Investors Group Field, where the team will play its home games.

"Whaddaya think?" asked Wade Miller, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Football Club, the organization that will run the club’s operations, following the grand reveal at field level. The Winnipeg Football Club is also responsible for running the Blue Bombers franchise.

The club name is a tribute to the three Winnipeg men — Cpl. Leo Clarke, Sgt. Maj. Frederick William Hall and Robert Shankland — who lived on the same street in the city’s West End prior to serving in the First World War. Although Shankland was the only soldier to return home alive, all three were awarded the Victoria Cross and the former Pine Street soon became Valour Road in their honour. The club’s crest features sheaves of wheat and a design inspired by the Cross. While the kits have yet to be revealed, the team’s colours will be maroon, gold and black.

Joining Miller for the announcement was David Clanachan, the league’s commissioner. Clanachan, formerly the president and chief operations officer of Tim Hortons, enthusiastically addressed the crowd of roughly 300 supporters, mostly composed of local youth players, their parents and their coaches.

Clanachan, an avid player himself, emphasized the league’s commitment to training Canadian talent and bringing the senior national men’s team, which has struggled in recent years to gain footing at the international level, back to relevance.

"We want you playing for this team when you grow up," Clanachan told the youth players assembled in front of him.

"I’m so hyped," 12-year-old Bonivital defender Benjamin Gibson said prior to the announcement. "It makes us want to work harder."

Clanachan and Miller said negotiations to bring a team to Winnipeg had been ongoing for several years.

Since Investors Group Field opened in 2013, the Blue Bombers’ home venue has played host to several sporting events, including the NHL Winter Classic and several national women’s soccer team matches. In May 2014, the women’s team hosted the U.S. national team at the stadium. A year later, Winnipeg was one of six Canadian cities to host matches during the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Those events helped make Winnipeg an easy choice for a franchise, Clanachan told the Free Press.

"Winnipeg knows how to host professional sports," Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said.

Bowman said he’d been in talks with Miller for several years regarding the potential return of professional outdoor soccer to the city. From 1987-1992, the Winnipeg Fury played in the now-defunct Canadian Soccer League. He said it’s become apparent there is "an incredible appetite" for such a team. "With all of the newcomers that are arriving in Winnipeg, for so many of them, soccer is their first game."

"I think the time is right," he added.

Cathy Cox, the provincial sport minister, pointed to the high registration in local youth soccer associations as a reason to believe the club can succeed. She estimated more than 20,000 youth soccer players are currently registered in Manitoba. According to the 2017 annual report by the Winnipeg Youth Soccer Association, the city had a total of 565 outdoor youth teams registered between ages nine and 18, with 55 per cent made up of boys teams and 45 per cent girls teams.

Clanachan was asked whether a women’s professional league was on the horizon.

"It’s one of the key questions I get all the time," he said.

"All I’ve said to the ladies is, just give me a little bit of time. It’s on our radar. We gotta get this league launched first. We promise and understand how important the women’s game is in this country."

Miller said single-game tickets will start at $11 for youth and range between $20 to $55 for adults. He wouldn’t disclose how much money the Winnipeg Football Club had invested in Valour FC, but said the organization used a portion of its operating reserve to fund the team.

Valour FC will be one of eight teams to play in the league next season, joining already-announced clubs in Calgary, Halifax and Toronto.

bwaldman@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @benjwaldman

History

Updated on Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 7:14 AM CDT: Final

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