Soc­cer league nabs John Gib­son

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON

The Cana­dian Pre­mier League con­tin­ues to send sig­nals that it is mov­ing to­ward a 2018 launch date.

The lat­est bea­con is the hir­ing of an­other sig­nif­i­cant em­ployee for the nascent pro­fes­sional soc­cer league’s head of­fice.

Hamil­ton’s John Gib­son, who has been work­ing be­hind the scenes ad­vis­ing the league, has been ap­pointed di­rec­tor of in­ter­provin­cial af­fairs for the CPL.

Soc­cer-drenched Gib­son had been pres­i­dent of the Hamil­ton and District Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion but re­cently left that post. Vice-pres­i­dent Tom Walsh has taken over as in­terim pres­i­dent.

“I’m ex­cited to be part of the CPL in the in­fancy of it,” Gib­son told The Spec­ta­tor. “I think it’s im­por­tant link­ing with the pro­vin­cial soc­cer bod­ies. They are the devel­op­ers of our young play­ers.”

For years, Gib­son — like his close friend and for­mer busi­ness part­ner John McGrane — has been a vo­cal pro­po­nent of a Tier I Cana­dian pro­fes­sional league.

“If we want to im­prove our men’s na­tional team we have to have a clear path­way for our kids to play,” Gib­son said.

The Cana­dian Soc­cer As­so­ci­a­tion — now called Canada Soc­cer — is the found­ing part­ner of the CPL, with an end game of vastly im­prov­ing on Canada’s dis­mal per­for­mances on the in­ter­na­tional men’s scene and hav­ing an in­te­grated sys­tem of player de­vel­op­ment from be­gin­ner leagues right through pro­fes­sional play.

Among other du­ties, Gib­son will help fa­cil­i­tate that co-or­di­na­tion, li­ais­ing with pro­vin­cial soc­cer bod­ies.

“There’s a lot of pol­i­tics in­volved in soc­cer,” he said. “And you can re­ally get caught up in it. The ex­pe­ri­ence I have work­ing within that struc­ture will help.”

Gib­son, who’s been play­ing, coach­ing and ad­min­is­ter­ing soc­cer for 55 years, moved to Canada from Scot­land with his fam­ily when he was only a year old and

grew up on the cen­tral moun­tain. He played mi­nor with Mount Hamil­ton soc­cer but, by 16, was a se­nior player for the Bri­tish Im­pe­rial soc­cer club. He then played for Dun­das United, and later coached the club. He was also pres­i­dent of Dun­das Youth Soc­cer, rep­re­sent­ing the as­so­ci­a­tion at the H&DSA be­fore join­ing the district ex­ec­u­tive as a di­rec­tor nearly six years ago.

In 1990, Gib­son ac­com­pa­nied McGrane to the Kitch­ener Spirit, an ex­pan­sion team in the old Cana­dian Soc­cer League, as as­sis­tant coach and gen­eral man­ager, and moved with him to the Hamil­ton Steel­ers the fol­low­ing year.

He and McGrane owned Soc­cer World from 1990 to 2010, and also owned in­door fa­cil­i­ties in Kingston, Lon­don, Dart­mouth and Ni­a­gara Falls.

He also helped start the Hamil­ton Soc­cer Hall of Fame and is in the Mo­hawk Col­lege Sports Hall of Fame for the nine years he coached its soc­cer team.

“John Gib­son has done a phe­nom­e­nal job in Hamil­ton with mi­nor soc­cer and has turned the H&DSA into a great or­ga­ni­za­tion, which is cer­tainly one of the mod­els for am­a­teur soc­cer in Canada,” says Ti­cats CEO Scott Mitchell who, with Ti­cats owner Bob Young, has been the ma­jor pri­vate-sec­tor driver of the CPL.

“John’s got a plethora of ex­pe­ri­ence as a player, coach and or­ga­nizer. We en­joyed the op­por­tu­nity to work to­gether the past few years and we need to bring in great peo­ple en­thu­si­as­tic about Cana­dian soc­cer. And ob­vi­ously, a big com­po­nent of that is am­a­teur soc­cer.

“What we’re hop­ing to do is to help an­swer some of the ques­tions for the CSA in terms of bridg­ing that gap be­tween get­ting kids to play am­a­teur soc­cer and giv­ing them the as­pi­ra­tional dream to play pro soc­cer.

“John is a great fit to work with the CPL and foster the re­la­tion­ships with the CSA and with the pro­vin­cial soc­cer as­so­ci­a­tions.”

Mitchell also said of a wide­ly­ex­pected 2018 de­but for the CPL: “That’s the fo­cus.”

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