North London to merge with London City
RYAN PYETTE, Free Press Sports Reporter
JOINING FORCES: "It's going to be much like the Junior Knights and the London Knights (of the OHL)." North London president Steve Brazier The local minor soccer landscape is going to look a lot different next summer.
The successful North London soccer club, which has produced the city's past two national champion youth squads, has merged with Harry Gauss's London City outfit to create an organization that will administer the game from the youngest amateur to the most grizzled pro.
At its most basic level, the move means North London's strong stable of high-calibre competitive teams will now fall into the City structure.
North London has 28 teams while Gauss's City has a Canadian Professional Soccer League entry, a Western Ontario Soccer League premier division squad, plus eight youth teams. There is talk of a City women's pro team on the horizon.
"It's going to happen," Gauss said. "There will be a women's CPSL next year."
The 2005 outdoor season will be considered a transition period but by 2006, North London teams such as the Canadian under-14 girls' club champion Supernova will trade its white-and-blue soccer gear for City's red-black-and-white kits.
"It made a lot of sense to combine the synergies of the two clubs," North London president Steve Brazier said. "There's one local pro men's team in town and why not join forces? It creates a pipeline for our players to the highest level."
The North London club will continue to exist but only as a select house league program for under-seven to under-nine boys and girls. London Dynamite coach Martin Painter will be oversee development as technical director.
"I like that they're stressing the development side of things, that was very important to me," Gauss said. "Winning is great but it's a byproduct of learned skills. Martin Painter is a good, young coach and I'm happy to see him involved."
Six years ago, North London surrendered its North East house league program and approximately 1,500 players to the Nor' West Optimists. When clubs such as Nor' West and Byron started enrolling teams in the intermediate and premier divisions of the London and District Youth Soccer League, North London knew it had to make changes or risk becoming irrelevant.
This merger has the potential to create a scenario similar to London's AAA minor hockey system. Many of the new City teams will play in the competitive Ontario Youth Soccer League and South Region circuit.
"It's going to be much like the Junior Knights and the London Knights (of the Ontario Hockey League)," Brazier said. "We still feel our main competition will be from a club like London United. Maybe more clubs will try this sort of setup, we don't know. This arrangement gives us the opportunity to draw players from all over the city."
Kensal Park, a house league with about 600 players, has an already-existing relationship with London City but won't officially fall under the new organization's umbrella.
The City marriage was approved at North London's annual general meeting on Oct. 19 and has been supported by the Elgin-Middlesex Soccer Association.
The three groups -- CPSL, youth, house league -- will continue to run their own financial affairs and have separate budgets.