Thursday, November 11, 2010

A visionary in soccer even if he won't be remembered fondly elsewhere

Given the current speculation over Richard Peddie's future as president of MLSE, it's worth taking a moment to assess his influence where the emergence of Toronto FC is concerned. Although the Toronto sports media will focus primarily on the failure of the Maple Leafs to win a Stanley Cup under his tenure, as soccer fans we should always bear in mind that it was Richard Peddie who stuck his neck out by persuading MLSE's ownership to close the funding gap on the U20 World Cup stadium deal and invest in an MLS expansion franchise. That looks like a no brainer in investment terms now but back around 2005 it looked like a major gamble to the extent that some people were liable to seriously question the sanity of anybody suggesting it given the failure of the Lynx to draw a regular crowd for A League games and the shaky finances and limited spectator appeal of many of the existing MLS franchises. It's worth mentioning also that Peddie's interest in MLS stretched all the way back to 1996 when he was involved in efforts to bring a charter franchise to the Skydome (as it was then). When he eventually leaves MLSE our sport will have lost one of its most influential friends amongst the executives of mainstream major league sports franchises in Canada.

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