Ronan Cordelle - Meet the latest Irishman to lay the foundations for a professional football club away from home

Fri, Jan 10 2020

Ronan Cordelle has been active recently in getting this idea off the ground Credit: Chris Simon / Barrie Advance

Glasgow Celtic, Hibernian, Barcelona and Velez Sarsfield – there are just four football clubs who have distinctly Irish links, and they may be joined soon by the Kempenfelt Crew.

Who are they, one may ask? The answer is, nobody really knows yet – it’s not their name, but it is a front that Irish ex-pat Ronan Cordelle is using to lay the foundations for a semi-professional football club in his adopted hometown of Barrie, Canada.

Cordelle is a boyhood supporter of Shelbourne and he is now looking to build a club that he can call his own away from home.

“I've been in Canada for 12 years now,” Cordelle explained to extratime.ie. “I lived for the first five in Toronto, so they had Toronto FC there, which is a big club.”

However, just a few years into his Canadian adventure – the Dubliner upped sticks to a town called Barrie – 112km north of Toronto.

“When we moved up to Barrie, it was like a little vacuum. So, there was nothing there for the community or whatever.

“I was scrolling over even football at a smaller level to watch but, the landscape is all changing here at the moment.”

But since his arrival in Barrie, developments have been made in regard to professional football in the region, with the inception of the Canadian Premier League just this year.

The Canadian Premier League enjoyed a sparkling debut campaign – with Forge FC of Hamilton securing the top honours.

“Last season was the first year of a Canadian Premier League. And it has been wildly successful.

“There’s a club here in Hamilton (150km south of Barrie) – a smaller city in Ontario – and they’re pulling in an average gate of eight or nine thousand.

“There’s seven teams in the league and they’re all pulling five, six, seven thousand at all their games, so it’s been successful.

“The league that we’ve been pushing for here is the one level down – and with the 2026 World Cup, this is going to take off.”

“There was actually teams in place for this Canadian Premier League, there was actually supporters’ clubs in place. So, there's still supporters club for cities that don't have teams.”

And while the footballing landscape in Canada is vastly different in North America – and Dubliner Cordelle who had no plans on his initial arrival to set up a football club – he has been able to benefit from plenty of support for the proposal.

“[The proposal] has been hugely popular. I’ve spoken to three local politicians and the mayor, and they've been nothing but supportive and will help me as much as they can.

“Having a team even in League One from Ontario is definitely a good look for the city and the community. They’ll help me out in any way they can with connections and everything.

“I'm pretty active on LinkedIn – and I've actually gotten a reference letter from an MLS club. And to go into the league, you need reference letters.

“So, I’ve got one from an MLS club. I've got one from Ottawa Fury – They're in the USL – and I've got a reference letter from Belfast Celtic in Northern Ireland as well.

“I’m meeting up with a guy who owns a soccer club and he’s in Toronto for business next week, so I’ll be meeting up with him for a chat.

“Again, that's just for advice and stuff like that, but I also got advice, I've got a phone number here for a guy who used to be the President of the Canadian Premier League.”

If you put a quick search into google on the Kempenfelt Crew, the name of a certain Niall Quinn may pop up – but the Dubliner who is fronting this has been quick to play down the role of Quinn., 

“I had him [Quinn] on my LinkedIn. I was like ‘Do you mind signing it?’ He did and then he wished me all the best and all that kind of thing – but he’s not involved in it. I’m a huge Man City fan as well so he’s a hero of mine.”

With the gathering momentum for the Canadian Premier League growing at a pace of nots – Cordelle is hopeful that his dreams for the project will be up and running by 2021. 

“I would say we'd be open running from the 2021 season,” he added. “If it was a case that there was some Irish players over in Canada here, yes I would love to bring them in.

“But, bringing them over with visas and all that kind of stuff from the money being paid - I'm not sure that would be possible.  

“Even in this League One in Ontario, there's a couple of guys in there that you might know the names of like Rohan Ricketts (formerly of Shamrock Rovers).

“Stephen Caldwell is also involved – he has 12 caps for Scotland – with Oakville Blue Devils so there’s a few big names involved in this league.”