CF Montreal: Gervais’ files

Gabriel Gervais officially took office as president and CEO of CF Montreal less than two weeks ago and he already has a lot of trouble.

• Read also: “It’s interesting right now” – Wilfried Nancy

“I was on cloud nine,” he admitted. When the announcement was made, I was relieved because I had known it for a while and couldn’t tell. There are many files to attack. »

Gervais is calm, composed and warm throughout the 30-minute conversion, which takes place via Zoom because his schedule is tightly regulated.

We can say that he has no shortage of priorities in his first weeks in charge of the club. We can think of the brand image of this one, the links to be rebuilt with the fans, the community and the business world, as well as a Saputo stadium to be rejuvenated and an administrative team which needs new blood.


In short, Gabriel Gervais arrives in a house that needs renovations, but he considers that the situation is not alarming.

He’s seen worse before. As a player, he arrived at the Impact in 2002 when the team was bankrupt and under trusteeship.

“It’s not exactly the same situation,” he says. The mission of giving back to the community remains the same, however. »

And it’s a bit like a hobby for him, we feel that this aspect is particularly close to his heart.

“We need to refresh our mission and make it clearly understood internally. Our goal is to bring the highest level of soccer back to the city. This mission had attracted partners at the time. »


One of the most important files on the pile that clutters his desk is that of the identity of the club. This one was lost a bit in a failed name and logo change.

He also mentions that steps have already been taken to calm things down.

“If I take a step back, with the feedback that our partners and our fans have shared, we have already made a change. Blue is back in our advertising campaign.

“The identity also comes back with the clarification of the mission. Giving back to the community the highest level of soccer possible. You just have to popularize it and refresh it in a way that everyone understands. »


To properly rebuild the soccer identity of the club and the city, he will have to meet a lot of people, starting with the supporters who have been burned by the change of identity.

He is under no illusions, the fact that he is a former player will not necessarily have a facilitating effect with the supporters and more particularly the Ultras, who are still shying away from the club.

“I honestly don’t know because I don’t know if they’re the same founders. I will talk to them, I also want to talk to the other supporters.

“But just to say that it’s Gabriel Gervais, a former player who knew the Ultras, I don’t think that’s enough. »

He does not hide it, he dreams, like Joey Saputo, of a big section of the Saputo stadium where all the fans would be gathered.

“We can help the club by being loud together, we want to put that culture in place and I wish with all my heart that they are back. »


Another challenge for Gabriel Gervais, he will have to rebuild part of the team in the club’s offices.

“I knew, in full transparency, that there was a good turnover rate and that there were several positions to fill. I knew that there were several of our people who were going overboard and were out of breath. »

He will be able to build his team in his image in addition to finding the stability that is necessary.

“With the high turnover rate of the administrative team, it’s not easy to build relationships. »

Developing young players

Mathieu Choinière in action during CF Montreal training in January at the Olympic Stadium.

Photo archives, Pierre-Paul Pouli

Mathieu Choinière in action during CF Montreal training in January at the Olympic Stadium.

One of the missions that Gabriel Gervais has given himself is to rediscover the relevance of CF Montreal in the world of soccer in Montreal and Quebec.

He doesn’t have to look far to find a sizeable ally since the club’s academy provides him with quality raw material. We think of young people like Mathieu Choinière who is a regular when he is not injured.

Gabriel Gervais draws a parallel between the development of the academies and the rise of the national men’s program.

“If you look at the success of the Canadian team, it’s no coincidence that it happens with the rise of the academies in the country. Some have gone to Europe, we can think of Alphonso Davies who is at Bayern. »


What Gabriel Gervais sees is that the young, internally developed players are no longer there just to fill jerseys or roster spots.

“The players are not just there to plug holes. They are regular, they play in the national team and they are going to the World Cup. »

The club has put everything in place for hopes to develop, and even those who are not trained at the club are progressing well.

“Ismaël Koné is only 19 years old and things are going fast for him. Mathieu is another good example, he grew up in the academy and he’s super quiet and I’m sure he’s on the doorstep of the national team. »

Training club

Constrained by a smaller budget than many other MLS clubs, CF Montreal has decided to become a training club that relies heavily on its young people.

With that in mind, the academy is an important piece of the puzzle. And the idea is not just to develop for the club. We see further.

“It’s our engine to develop young professionals. They will not all become so, but it can open doors for them for scholarships in American universities for example.

“We train our players. There are some who are going to be very strong in MLS. Not all players will go to Europe. »


Nevertheless, there is an interesting economic potential when you consider that the sale of a player can generate several million dollars in certain cases.

“Yes, there is a financial component because the revenue line for a player sold can be important for the team. »

And beyond the money, he hopes that the young people who will use CF Montreal as a springboard will then be the standard bearers.

“There are young people who will be passing through, but who will leave a legacy with us. »

A Saputo stadium that needs to be rejuvenated

We can’t hide it, the Saputo stadium is now lagging behind when we look at the new stadiums that have appeared in MLS in recent years.

We can think of TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, which can accommodate 26,000 spectators and was built at a cost of US$250 million. Still in Ohio, there is also Field in Columbus, built at a cost of US$314 million and which hosts 20,371 spectators.

“We have reached the stage where we have to raise the bar which is already high”, recognizes Gabriel Gervais, adding that the club has constraints.

“Ultimately, there has to be a return on investment. There is the lease and the Olympic Park which make the file a little more complex. It doesn’t happen overnight. »


Gervais says he is optimistic to see the file progress and maintains that Joey Saputo wants to make improvements. “Joey Saputo and his family are constantly thinking about how they can improve the experience. »

As this is a theme that came up throughout the discussion, when the Saputo stadium is improved, we will still have to respect its identity since it is one of the most intimate in MLS.

“You can smell the grass from the stands and it’s fun. There are limits from the point of view of the field because we are tight [dans l’espace]. There is a way to maintain privacy, increase capacity and improve logistics. »


The technical staff file is just as important and Gabriel Gervais fully adheres to the youth shift advocated by the sports director, Olivier Renard, and the head coach, Wilfried Nancy.

“I’m 100% on board with their philosophy, it’s the same as what we had in 2002. We had Jason Di Tulio at 17 and Adam Braz starting as central at 20. I was 24 or 25 and already considered a veteran and had played two seasons in Rochester. »

He also really likes the style of play offered by the team, especially since it seems to be in the process of finding its identity.

“We often have more ball possession, even against the Mexican teams and I really like that. When we start to move the ball and keep possession, we are very difficult to beat. »

And through all that, there is Olivier Renard’s contract which expires at the end of the season. “The intention is to keep Olivier for the long term. You have to find a good situation for his family and for him. He wants to stay. »

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