Paul Beirne, shown in a handout photo, has been named president of the Canadian Premier League, the domestic soccer circuit set to kick off in the spring of 2019. Beirne is no stranger to being a Day 1 employee, having done so at Toronto FC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Canadian Premier League-Darren Goldstein/DSG Photo

Paul Beirne named president of Canadian Premier League, set to kick off in 2019

TORONTO — No stranger to being first through the door, Paul Beirne is feeling bullish about the Canadian Premier League.

Beirne was a Day 1 employee at Toronto FC. And he turned on the lights at the CPL, which named him the fledgling league’s first president on Wednesday.

Beirne has been on the CPL case for more than a year already, working under the all-encompassing title of project manager.

“It’s been an exciting 18 months,” Beirne said in an interview. “I’m more buoyed than ever at the opportunity and the potential.”

His new title comes as the league ramps up for its debut in the spring of 2019.

Former Tim Hortons senior executive David Clanachan has already been appointed the league’s first chairman and commissioner.

As president, Beirne will manage the league’s day-to-day operations. A dozen others are helping him build it from the ground up.

The men’s pro soccer circuit has been on the drawing board for some four years and under construction for one. While Winnipeg and Hamilton are the only two announced entries to date, Clanachan says the league is currently dealing with 12 to 15 interested cities and expects to launch with eight to 10 teams.

“The timing is right on a number of fronts,” said Beirne, citing Canada’s changing demographics and the prospect of a World Cup in 2026.

“But also the quality of the young Canadian players and the need to give them a place to play.”

Supporters groups like Hamilton’s Barton Street Battalion are already planning their debut season. Groups in Calgary, Fraser Valley, B.C., Halifax (Wanderers), Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. (Grand River Union), London, Ont., Mississauga, Ont. (Sauga City Collective), Quebec City, Regina (Pile O Bones) and Saskatoon (Bridge City Firm) are among those hoping to join them.

Beirne expects the other first-year teams to be revealed between now and April.

Beirne, formerly vice-president of business operations for Toronto FC, has also held executive roles with the Toronto Raptors and Ottawa Senators. More recently he oversaw the commercial business for England’s Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club.

The CPL has already been sanctioned as a member of the Canadian Soccer Association.

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