Interview with Gabriel Gervais | CF Montreal awaiting a “global vision” for the Olympic Park

“At least it’s clear in our minds. » For Gabriel Gervais and CF Montreal, this is perhaps the only positive aspect to take away from the announcement of the unavailability of the Olympic Stadium until 2028 due to the renovation of the roof of the enclosure.

At least in the short term.

“It’s been years, even before I took office, that we’ve been talking about renovations to the Stadium, the roof,” recalls the president of the CFM during a virtual interview with The Press. There, it’s confirmed. […] It’s certain that for us, it’s going to be difficult to always start the season abroad, but it’s part of our reality. It’s going to be an annual routine to start the season outside. »

Either. But one of the club’s objectives, stated very clearly at the start of the year, is to win the Canadian championship. Which ultimately leads to qualification for the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Tournament which begins in February, when the “Big O” and the Saputo stadium will both be inaccessible. Where will you play the matches if you participate?

“I tasked our team with looking for a contingency plan,” emphasizes Gervais.

The club is examining the possibility of playing these matches in “stadiums that are close to, say, the greater Montreal area.” Gervais also mentions the option of playing on neutral ground, but immediately dismisses it: “The idea would be to try to play closer to our home. »

Is Percival-Molson stadium better equipped for winter than Saputo stadium? The president says the home of the McGill and Alouettes teams “is not an option.”

File to follow, therefore. Just like that of the “global vision” surrounding the Olympic Park, which the CFM is impatiently awaiting.

We want to understand how the work on the Olympic Stadium can be combined with a more holistic approach to the environment around the two stadiums. At the Eastern Summit, they announced a hotel. How does this hotel fit in with the rest of the project? This is what particularly interests us.

Gabriel Gervais, president of the CFM

Gervais recalls that no plan has been outlined in this regard at the moment. “I imagine they will present it to us in due time. »

We ask him if he is disappointed that an announcement on the renovation of the roof of the Stadium was made without it being linked to a renovation of the surroundings of the two enclosures.

“It’s not a question of being disappointed or not disappointed,” he replies. We are in mode: “OK, there is an announcement that has been made, we are reacting, we want to ensure the best possible experience for our supporters.” The whole organization is really in this state of mind. »

For the club, it is necessary to “clearly understand the work schedule” and what the site will look like, and thus find a way to “minimize” the impact of the project on “traffic around the stadium”.

“We don’t have the details yet, but we are in communication with the Olympic Park, and there will be recurring meetings. »

“We have absolutely nothing to reproach ourselves for”

Supporters groups 1642 MTL and Collective IMFC have both denounced the rumor that the club is selling individual tickets for the May 11 match against Inter Miami and Lionel Messi in their sections at a price of $450. . This would be an increase of $420 more than the $30 it usually costs to get a seat in the stands. The official price announcement will be made Friday morning.

Gabriel Gervais says he is “surprised” by the reaction of the supporters.

“If I look at the facts as they are, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the general ticket sales strategy for this season. »

It details the schedule for the last few months. The sale of subscriptions for 2024, announced in August, got underway last September. Then it exploded with the announcement of the calendar at the end of December. They sold like hot cakes until reaching the maximum number of 15,000 subscriptions sold on January 18.

Everyone had the chance to grab a season ticket, which is the equivalent of the lowest average price for all matches. […] In recent years, there has been almost no increase in the price of subscriptions. I think we were very fair and just throughout the process.

Gabriel Gervais

Then came the six-game packages, which also all found buyers. During this period, Gervais points out, the club publicly disclosed the evolution of subscription sales.

He insists: “I respect the opinion of our supporters a lot, they are important partners for us, we have very good relations with all the groups. »

And if some supporters dressed in Florida pink find themselves among the most fervent supporters of the Bleu-blanc-noir, he assures that “security will be the priority”. “If we see that there is hostility, we will not hesitate to move people. But it’s certain that in our supporters sections, it’s our supporters, our colors, and a lot of atmosphere. This is what is encouraged. »

Objectives and philosophy

Now that all of this is said, a reality sets in: Saputo stadium should be full most of the time during the season. How can we ensure that these new supporters come, stay and want to resubscribe in 2025?

“It is certain that the product on the field is very important,” says Gervais, recalling the performances at home and the interesting crowd at the Saputo stadium last summer. […] There is also everything that happens in the corridors, the food, the entertainment. »

But beyond all that, in terms of sport, the club ensures that it has not drifted from its trajectory.

We are not going to deviate from our philosophy. It is based on youth, on the academy, on local flavor, on the sale of players, and on performance too.

Gabriel Gervais

He recalls the sporting objectives: in addition to the Canadian championship, the CFM wants to qualify for the series and aspire to the MLS Cup.

“Now, yes, some changes happened in the off-season. I would say that we came to fill certain gaps, especially offensively. »

He mentions that he has always said, since the press conference announcing his hiring as president, that if the opportunity presented itself to seek out a major player who would “optimize the sports project,” he would do it.

Josef Martínez, Gervais says, “wanted to come here and be a part” of it.

“We hope that people will become attached to him, like Matías Coccaro, who has a truly unique personality. »

Gervais gives a concrete example to prove that the philosophy does not change this year.

“What people may not realize is that [Bryce] Duke, [Kwadwo] Opoku, [Fernando] Alvarez and [George] Campbell, the young players we picked up last year, we invested a lot of money. More money in 2023 than in 2022.”

2022 which was, it should be remembered, the year of all records.

“Extremely feverish”

Like several of the CFM players this off-season, Gabriel Gervais speaks of an important “learning curve” on a sporting level this year.

With the new head coach and the arrivals in the squad, “it will take some time for the whole team to be on the same wavelength”.

But he concedes that the 2024 campaign, which begins Saturday in Orlando, will be an important season “in several senses”, including the “commercial, financial and sporting” aspects.

For the former Impact defender, the partnerships concluded with Chevrolet and Air Transat, combined with “other announcements to come”, constitute all factors which contribute to “positive momentum” for the CFM.

The 15,000 subscriptions have an impact on public perception, but in the business community, the proverbial Quebec Inc., these associations have a great resonance, believes the club.

“I am extremely excited for this season. »

The successes of Bologna, what impact for the Impact?

On the other side of the Atlantic, Joey Saputo – and perhaps indirectly the supporters of the CFM – has other reasons to rejoice. The Impact’s sister team, Bologna, is fifth in the Serie A standings, tied on points with Atalanta in fourth place.

But still ? This is because the first four in the Italian championship qualify for the European Champions League next year. Which means a nice prize pool for the participating clubs and exponentially increased visibility.

What impact could such participation in the most prestigious club competition in the world have on CF Montreal here?

“We look at it from a philosophical point of view, from a best practices point of view,” indicates Gabriel Gervais. And also for the potential exchange of players. »

He explains that Bologna has existed since 1909 and plays in a championship “on another level” compared to MLS.

“We can benefit from their expertise. We have coaches, physical trainers who were in Bologna and who are now here. We had players passing through Bologna. Lappalainen, Corbo, Breza, and now Joaquín Sosa on loan with us. »

Some academicians have also done internships there, from time to time.

“It’s really this collaboration and this sharing of knowledge” that matters at CF Montréal, affirms Gabriel Gervais.

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