If you’re a soccer fan in the city who has been craving more footy, there's a push being made by a Barrie group hoping to make the local pitch scream.
The Kempenfelt Crew is a soccer supporters' group being run by Ronan Cordelle, a 39-year-old soccer fan who believes that, with a significant population base in Barrie, there should be a successful professional club here.
“I can’t believe that a city the size of Barrie doesn’t have a professional team,” Cordelle told BarrieToday. “There are about 150,000 people in the city and the club I cheer for back in Ireland has a fanbase of about 1,200.”
While he's a supporter of Manchester City in the English Premier League, Cordelle is also a fan of Shelbourne FC, a club located in the suburb of Drumcondra, Dublin. The inner-suburb has just under 9,000 people, but the diehard fans don’t miss a game of their hometown Reds, which is Shelbourne FC’s nickname. It paid off because the team qualified for the top league in Ireland and will play in the Ireland Premier Division in 2020.
Cordelle, originally from Dublin, Ireland, says it's a feat that he wants to see happen to a team in Barrie as they progress through the years.
“Getting a team into League 1 would be so fantastic and such a huge honour,” said Cordelle. “That’s not to say we couldn’t get a team in the Canadian Premier League (CPL) someday, but to start in League 1 would help grow the game here in Barrie and add such a fun fanbase.”
League 1 Ontario is a is a semi-professional men's and women's soccer loop in the province and is sanctioned by the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and the Ontario Soccer Association (OSA) as a Division III league in the Canadian soccer league system.
The league began in 2014 with 10 teams and the 2019 season will have 16 teams in the men's division and 14 teams in the women's division.
Teams are based many places, including London, Vaughn, the Toronto area and Ottawa.
The CPL held its inaugural season this year with seven teams competing from B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. The Hamilton Forge were the first squad to win the league championship.
“The creation of the CPL really got the ball rolling for me,” said Cordelle. “Seeing the organization of the league and the fans in those communities who made the atmosphere so fun, it made me think that we could definitely do this and create the buzz in Barrie that soccer can bring.”
A team in League 1 would need seating for 500 people, three changerooms and flood lights. The city has field space at the Barrie Community Sports Complex in Midhurst full of fields and Barrie’s south-end is also readying for mass development.
Cordelle says he has the backing of several soccer aficianados, including soccer legend Danny Dichio and other members of the international soccer community.
A petition to bring pro soccer to Barrie has 174 signatures so far and Cordelle says he will be meeting with several politicians and potential sponsors in the coming weeks.
Cordelle says he's running into more and more soccer fans as he makes the rounds for signatures and, with the city of Barrie set to see a population boom in the coming years, he believes the time is now for pro soccer.
“I don’t think soccer fans in this city know how many there are of each other,” Cordelle said. “Once the population in Barrie starts to double, we’re going to see a whole new demographic of people who are soccer fans and looking for an outlet for their sports passion.”
To sign the petition to bring pro soccer to Barrie, head to the site here.