Together again: Kingston FC co-owners re-unite to back pro soccer

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When Lorne Abugov was Joe Scanlon’s Journalism student at Carleton University the pair teamed up to broadcast Carleton men’s basketball games. Now – decades later – they are re-united as co-owners of Kingston’s new entry in the Canadian Soccer League, Kingston F.C., the only professional sports team in any sport between Ottawa and Toronto.

Because of their friendship and mutual interest in sports, the pair agreed to be minority investors in Kingston F.C. when the team was formed in 2012. What they didn’t expect was that the principal owner would bow out for personal reasons and they would take over the team.

It was, says Scanlon, “a shock and a surprise and an incredible learning experience.” Their first goal, says Abugov, was to survive the 2012 CSL season. Now, with that accomplished, the owners are on a path to assemble a much better team for 2013 and one with a much stronger Kingston presence.

Their first step last summer was finding a coach – and there they lucked out: Colm Muldoon – an A-level European coach had just moved to Belleville. A skilled tactician, Muldoon has already signed for the coming 2013 season.

Next they had to bolster the 2012 Kingston FC roster. “Some of the players we inherited were definitely good enough to compete in CSL professional soccer,” said Abugov. “For example, Jordan Brooks, who was an all-star with Queen’s, and Austin White, who played with Brantford Galaxy of the CSL and is now at Queen’s law school, are more than able to play at the CSL level, and we’re thrilled to have them back for the 2013 season.”

Six players from last year’s team have already re-signed pro contracts for next season. In addition, the club wants to build on its success in international recruitment – their first acquisition was Vitaliy Sidorov, an attacking midfielder who learned his football as a youngster in Siberia, and enjoyed his time with Kingston FC in 2012, scoring 4 goals in nine games. He has re-signed with the club for next season. Negotiations are now underway with other players in Argentina, the Czech Republic and New Zealand.

“For 2013, our team will be about 75% Canadian and 25% international. And we are definitely interested in finding local talent,” said Abugov. “We feel that basing both our 1st and 2nd Division teams in Kingston next season is going to help us add a whole bunch of talent from Kingston and the area between Cornwall and Belleville.”

While building a stronger team is one objective, creating a much stronger Kingston presence is another. When Abugov and Scanlon took over, the team was practising in Ottawa because that’s where many of the players lived. During the 2013 season, however, all the players will be living in Kingston, including new international recruits and returning veterans from Ottawa.

“We realized,” says Abugov, “that if we wanted to get Kingston people to come out to our games and Kingston businesses to support the club, we needed a much stronger Kingston presence. We will have that next season.”

While a lot has been accomplished, there is a lot more to be done. The owners don’t hide the fact that they can’t afford to finance the team themselves. “We absolutely need some Kingston sponsors,” says Abugov, “and at least one Kingston-based individual or company to make an ownership investment – someone who believes that it is worthwhile having a professional soccer team in Kingston.”

While some fans were disappointed with Kingston FC’s 4-17-1 record in 2012, third last in the 16-team CSL, no one was more disappointed with the on-field performance than the owners themselves. “People saw that the team played hard most games and lost seven tough one-goal matches. They told us we couldn’t expect much more from a first-year team, but we were still pretty disappointed,” says Scanlon. “We are quite confident though that we’ll have a much stronger team in 2013, one that should be good enough to make the playoffs.”

The team’s new web site (www.kingstonfc.ca) will be on line shortly keeping local residents informed about team news, including signings. Kingston FC supporters will be able to buy season tickets on-line for the team’s 11 home games. “We hope people in and around Kingston will agree with us that $75 is a low-cost way to show they want pro soccer in Kingston.”

Kingston FC plans to shift its home games from Saturday nights to Sunday afternoons and will also plan to have a home game every second weekend during the summer. “We hope,” says Scanlon, “that Sunday afternoon will be a more attractive time, especially for parents who want to take their kids to see professional soccer. We also hope a regular schedule will mean our supporters will be able to plan ahead and attend most of our home games.”