A turf war’s brewing in Mississauga.
International Soccer Club Mississauga (ISC) says the city gave rival North Mississauga Soccer Club (NMSC) exclusive rights to display its name and logo across a new state-of-the-art soccer field and scoreboard — a deal made behind closed doors that was never open to other bidders.
Tarek Sabry, an ISC board member, says the agreement means NMSC has an unfair advertising advantage that will attract new players and push his club out of business.
“Why the favouritism?” Sabry said. “Our club is built on the values of equality and anti-bullying. We are being treated exactly the opposite.”
ISC, a not-for-profit club with close to 2,000 youth players, is demanding the city review the contract and start a public bidding process to give all clubs a fair shot at an advertising deal, Sabry said.
The $51-million Churchill Meadows Community Centre and Sports Park — located at Ninth Line north of Erin Centre Boulevard — is set to open in the coming months. It features a six-lane pool, triple gymnasium, playground and turf soccer fields, one with a seasonal dome.
It was designed following public consultations in 2015 that included a focus group with two rugby as well as Erin Mills Soccer Club and NMSC.
NMSC’s semi-professional League1 Ontario teams will soon be based at the new centre and will have exclusive use of a scoreboard, says Mississauga’s website for the project.
Other leagues and all residents are still allowed to book the centre’s fields, but that’s a non-starter for Sabry.
“We cannot go out there and rent it simply because… we cannot,” he said. “It’s basically as if they’re asking Burger King to sell their sandwiches inside McDonalds. You can’t do that.”
Club, city strike 10-year agreement
NMSC entered a five-year agreement with Mississauga to lease the scoreboard for a total of $33,000, according to city documents. The club paid $60,000 to purchase the scoreboard and have it installed, community services commissioner Shari Lichterman said in a March email to Sabry, provided to CBC News.
The city and NMSC also struck a 10-year sponsorship agreement, with NMSC paying a fee to offset the cost of installing the club’s logo on the field, the email said.
NMSC is the only soccer organization in the city with an Ontario Player Development League program and will host events and tournaments that promote tourism, says City of Mississauga spokesperson Catherine Monast. NMSC also has “elite” League1 teams.
The non-profit club says in a statement it’s been in talks for years with the city about the sponsorship agreement. It says its investment in the facility will help support its competitive teams.
“We are committed to supporting the growth and development of the sport of soccer in the City of Mississauga,” said NMSC manager Ben McKinley.
To level the playing field, Sabry says ICS has pushed to also have a scoreboard with their logo at another of the park’s fields. But in May, the city estimated it would cost them more than $100,000 to install, according to an email from Lichterman to Sabry.
Sabry says another blow came in the form of a denial of office space.
For years ICS has requested an office at a city site, including at the new centre, but has been repeatedly told the club can’t have it because of lack of space, he says. But NMSC will have an office in the community centre, costing $30,000 over five years, the city reported to councillors in 2020.
“It feels like the city wants to shut us down,” Sabry said.
Monast says accommodating ICS’s requests “may result in additional requests and concerns” from similar leagues. City staff are currently working on a new policy to “all ensure future requests are considered appropriate” by this fall. Then the city will resume its discussion with ICS.
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