Canadian Olympic runner De Grasse shows support for AFC Toronto City women’s soccer team with financial contribution.

Movie DetailerSports Canadian Olympic runner De Grasse shows support for AFC Toronto City women’s soccer team with financial contribution.

Star sprinter Andre De Grasse has become a part-owner of AFC Toronto City, the local team in the proposed women’s professional soccer league in Canada, which is set to launch in 2025.

“I was primarily considering the grassroots community aspect,” De Grasse, who played youth soccer with the Scarborough Azzurri-Blues, stated in a phone interview. “I just wanted to be involved in something that’s really cool.

“Establishing a women’s soccer league with a franchise in Toronto is an amazing opportunity, and I hope to contribute significantly to it. Hopefully, it can grow into something substantial because I’m a big supporter of women’s soccer.”

Discussions between De Grasse’s representatives and Diana Matheson, the former Canadian international who came up with the idea for the league, had been underway since its launch in December 2022. The announcement of AFC Toronto City was made in April 2023.

During Canada’s women’s Olympic qualifier game against Jamaica on September 26, De Grasse, a native of Markham, Ontario, was invited by investors and Project 8 (the league’s organizing body) to express his interest in being part of the venture.

Specifics regarding De Grasse’s investment amount were not disclosed by his spokesperson.

The franchise fee for the new league is $1 million, along with an estimated $8 million to $10 million of total invested capital required over the first five seasons, in addition to necessary infrastructure expenses. Owners will have a share in the league as well as their own team.

The ownership group of AFC Toronto City consists of entrepreneurs associated with the North Toronto Soccer Club, although the club itself is not affiliated with the new team. CEO Helena Ruken, COO Brenda Ha, and chief marketing officer Jill Burgin lead the group. Mike Ruthard, Billy Wilson, and Shamez Mangalji are the other co-owners, all with ties to the North Toronto Soccer Club. Ruthard and Mangalji bring financial sector experience, while Wilson serves in North Toronto’s executive and technical director role.

Ruthard will assume the position of chief financial officer for Toronto City, Mangalji will oversee sales and fundraising, and Wilson will serve as a technical advisor.

Project 8, founded by Matheson and Thomas Gilbert, has already received official recognition from Canada Soccer for the league.

“We are excited to hear that Andre will be investing in Toronto’s women’s professional team,” Matheson stated. “Andre is joining an investment group in Toronto that, like him, recognizes the tremendous impact that sports have on individuals and communities, as well as the significant growth potential of women’s professional sports in Canada.”

Matheson’s last-minute goal secured a bronze medal for Canada at the 2012 London Olympics. From 2003 to 2020, she earned 206 caps for Canada, starting in 193 of them.

The Vancouver Whitecaps and Calgary foothills are among the other teams already confirmed for the women’s league.

The 29-year-old De Grasse, a six-time Olympic medalist, has been actively supporting startup ventures through his recently established ADG Ignite Ventures.


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