CF Montreal: ‘We’ve moved away from where we were’

Joey Saputo rarely gives interviews, but agreed to meet NewspaperYesterday, in order to return, among other things, to change the identity of the club.

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As we know Impact became CF Montreal at the beginning of 2021. The name and accompanying logo were not well received.

“Was I surprised by the fans’ reaction? Yes at the time, but his analysis after that, I should not have been surprised,” he admits, stressing that the change was against the spirit of the club.

“It wasn’t necessarily the way we did things. We were transparent, we talked to people. We moved away from our identity.”

Too late

CF Montreal owner had to take a step back to better understand what really happened.

“When you look at the evolution of our identity, for the first time, there was a discontinuity, but when you are in it, you don’t see it. Only when you take a step back will you realize it.”

He repeats: “We moved away from our identity, and that was not the idea behind changing the identity. We wanted to be close to our supporters by having a more global vision.”

Because he was not against changing the name. For him, it made more sense to think more.

“I was in favor of the philosophy behind the change of identity. By having a team in Europe, I saw MLS becoming more global so I was in favor of going in that direction.”


So the past two years have been tough, but above all because for the first time in his life, he left his team for someone else when he left the presidency to make way for Kevin Gilmore in January 2019.

“I’ve been leading the team for more than 25 years or less. It got to a point where the message I wanted to send wasn’t good or some of the things I wanted to do were more difficult. It was hard for me because he was my child.”

So he wanted to move away from decisions, which he did not find obvious, even admitting that he lived at a point in which he had less desire to go to watch matches.

“To make sure there was no interference, I no longer had an office in the stadium and was less involved. It was something I had to do because I was very committed.”

see otherwise

By his own admission, Joey Saboto has been able to see his team differently for two and a half years. We really feel more calm and balanced.

“It was important for me to get away, it allowed me to see the club in a different way.”

During the hour-long interview, he made it clear several times that he did not want to question Kevin Gilmore’s work.

“I had to let someone take my dream and lead it in a certain direction.”


He remembers that the past two years have naturally taken him away from the team.

“It was COVID, the team wasn’t here and I wasn’t traveling with them. It was hard to be in the bubble.”

By the force of circumstances, he even felt neglected for a while.

“I’ve been in Florida since I’ve been working remotely. From time to time I’d go see the team, but I didn’t really feel like part of the gang. There were a lot of new players, I was a little intruder. »


When Kevin Gilmore opted to leave last fall, Joey Saputo had no choice but to approach the team while they waited to find his successor.

“When I came back it was like a rebirth for me. I saw how far I had come the team and how far I had come. It gave me time to re-evaluate some elements.

“I think we’re going in the right direction. I feel like we’re back in the old days.”

When he left his team presidency in Montreal, gossip suggested that more time was to be devoted to FC Bologna, but Saputo confirmed that Montreal was still his child.

“We have two people from Bologna working here to help us improve our technical sector and I pay half of their salary.

“I never go to Bologna any more. I go there about once a month.”

Bringing harmony back to the field

CF Montreal management wants to take steps to attract more spectators to the games at Stade Saputo.

Photo Archives, Martin Alari

CF Montreal management wants to take steps to attract more spectators to the games at Stade Saputo.

A few weeks ago, Joey Saputo and President Gabriel Gervais went to see fan groups through the back door before the game at Stade Saputo.

You’d think it was a reconciliation effort, but Joey Saboto corrects the situation.

“It is not done in the spirit of reconciliation, it is just who we are,” Sahib insists
CF Montreal.

However, he does not hide that he wants to ensure the return of harmony to Stade Saputo and that he would like it to take place in a major partisan division as already mentioned.


You can’t talk about fan groups without talking about Ultras. They were vehemently opposed to the team’s identity change and did not understand that Division 132, where they were installed, closed last fall.

“The Ultras need to understand why we made these decisions. We had problems with some members of this department and every time we spoke to them, no one took responsibility.”

Saputo noted that the team has made several offers to the Ultras to try to find common ground, but the discussions never came to fruition.

“We have to agree on the nine things we agree on without worrying about the 10% we don’t,” he says. If people are so extreme about the 10% that doesn’t fit in, we’ll never agree. »

Of course, we can’t talk about the fans without talking about the crowds at Stade Saputo. According to Soccer Stadium Digest, CF Montreal is 26e Out of the 28 teams from the MLS with an average attendance of 13,768 this season.

Several negative factors

Inflation is going up, gas prices are the same, and people’s discretionary income has gone down. People will think twice before spending a dollar and they will cut the football ticket first.

“I know it’s going to be tough in the next few years. I don’t remember the fact that there are only 14,000 spectators. I especially wonder if those out there are having fun. I want to keep the fans coming already and then we’ll think about getting more fans.”

He remembers in passing that the Saputo family did not set up this team to make money because it was a non-profit organization from 2002 until their entry into MLS.


So we shouldn’t have too many worries about the future of the club, which appears to be in Montreal to stay there.

“People think the franchise costs $40 million, it’s $400 million and we can sell it, but why would we do that? If money was all I cared about, it would be done now.

Of course there is a difference between losing 10 million and losing 26 million. At 10 million, we can handle it. If we lose 26 million a year, people won’t care and we always criticize because we don’t think enough, we might wonder if it’s worth it. »

The club will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. “And I hope we’ll be here for at least another 50 years,” says Joey Saboto, in a reassuring tone.

Everyone is in the right chair

There was the appointment of Gabriel Gervais as President and CEO, a little over two months ago, and this week, Sports Director Olivier Renard became Vice President and Chief Sports Officer.

For the first time in a long time, it seems everyone is in the right chair at CF Montreal, an opinion shared by Joey Saputo.

“Olivier understands where we want to go and knows how to do it. It’s the same with Gabriel,” he confirms.

The two men also have permanent contracts, which means that they are like permanent employees, because they are considered family members.

“With Olivier, we found the right person to carry out the plan we had,” explains Joey Saputo. For me, it’s a great find through the contacts I’ve made in Europe.

“Gabriel is not afraid to make mistakes and I leave him. But he does not because he needs a lot of help.”

With these two men in power, Joey Saboto doesn’t hesitate to step in at times without control. “I feel very comfortable continuing to be there because I don’t feel like a thorn in my side, I feel I am here to help people continue to grow.”

a challenge

The perception that Joey Saboto is the only master on board is a stubborn one, but he maintains that it is very far from reality.

“They have to challenge me,” he said of Gervais and Renard. I don’t need someone to say yes to everything I say. I’m not afraid of having people smarter than me by my side.

“I’d rather be challenged than have someone who doesn’t, but who will do whatever he wants next.”

better spend

Olivier Renard was chosen because it fits with the philosophy of the club, which chose to become a coach rather than rely on expensive stars. “My philosophy is to run the club with the means we have and it doesn’t mean we don’t have the means, sets out Joey Saputo. I can’t, like Toronto, spend 16 or 17 million dollars on a player.

“We are better off going after a young player who is worth between $500,000 and $1 million and we can sell him $2 million and make a million dollars in profit than going after a player with $16 million that brings nothing. It’s an expense.”

#Montreal #Weve #moved

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