The Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has collapsed due to an “economically unstable” business model.
In a statement, the CWHL Board of directors said that while the ice hockey itself was “exceptional”, financial problems meant the league could no longer operate and it would cease operations from May 1.
The most recent season, which ended on March 24, was widely considered a success and so the news has, according CBC, been met with “nearly universal” shock and disappointment.
“New management, led by Jayna Hefford, and the new Board, put in place in [the] summer and fall 2018, respectively, have proactively worked with our contract staff, players, GMs [general managers], industry partners and corporate sponsors to establish an adequate revenue base, good governance and high-quality hockey on the ice,” the CWHL’s statement reads.
“Unfortunately, the business model that has been the foundation of the league is not sustainable, financially.”
In its last season, the league featured six teams: Calgary Inferno, Les Canadiennes de Montreal, Markham Thunder, Toronto Furies, Worcester Blades and Chinese team Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays and last month 175,000 fans watched coverage of the season-ending Clarkson Cup, a new record for viewership.
I’m heartbroken at the news of the #CWHL folding. Hard to process this after our most successful season to date. Thank you to the builders, players, coaches, GMs, fans that made it possible for 12 seasons. We will rebound from this.— Brianne Jenner (@briannejenner) March 31, 2019
According to the Canadian news website Global NEWS, it operated on a budget of CAD$3.7 million (£2.1 million/$2.8 million/€2.5 million) for the 2017-2018 season.
Players were paid for the first time in 2017 and received between CAD$1,500 (£900/$1,100€1,000) and CAD$7,500 (£4,300/$5,600/€5,000) for the season.
Though many reacted to the league’s failing with surprise, Global reported the league had lost a “prime source” of funding in November last year, when venture capital firm Roustan Capital withdrew its support.
At the time, the company’s founder W. Graeme Roustan blamed a lack of transparency over the director’s expenses as the reason.
“I’m heartbroken at the news of the CWHL folding,” Calgary Inferno forward Brianne Jenner said on Twitter.
“Hard to process this after our most successful season to date.
“Thank you to the builders, players, coaches, GMs, fans that made it possible for 12 seasons.
“We will rebound from this.”
CWHL all-star Carlee Campbell told CBC the news had been a shock to her.
“I had no idea,” she said.
“I was confused.
“I was angry.
“I was sad.
“I’m a little confused as to why this whole thing has happened because we were on such a positive trajectory.”
Furies general manager Sami Jo Small reportedly added that no suggestion the league was about to fold was made during a recent meeting with the CWHL.
“We had a meeting last week talking about next year and best practices going forward, and the league was right there with us,” she is quoted as saying.
“There didn’t seem to be any indication things were going in this direction.”
The league was formed in 2007 and was considered successful by many, but according to CBC it was reportedly “no secret” the league had struggled to attract fans.
Cary Kaplan – President of sports marketing firm Cosmos Sports & Entertainment – told CBC the league’s business model had been blame for its failings.
"There is no obligation for an eight-year-old girl or an eight-year-old boy or a 40-year-old man or woman to go to a hockey game,” she is quoted as saying.
“The responsibility is on the team and the organisation and they haven't invested in themselves.
"I think the good news is it's not about women's sports or women's hockey.
“It's about the wrong business model."