MSL: Excelsiors Board of Directors not contesting move to Owen Sound

Jeff Teat and the Brampton Bug Juice Excelsiors will be moving to Owen Sound for the 2021 MSL season. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

A firestorm started on Lacrosse Twitter last week is coming to an end.

The Brampton Excelsiors Lacrosse Club will not be contesting the move of the Major Excelsiors to Owen Sound. The BELC Board of Directors released a statement this afternoon rebuffing a popular theory on the social media platform that the 2018 transfer of the team to Joe Norton was done without authorization from the board.

In part, the statement reads: “In February 2018, the BELC Executive authorized our President, the Board member responsible for the Majors, and our legal counsel to enter into discussions with the interested party. In April 2018, the board voted to give approval for them to negotiate and complete the transfer of the team to Joe Norton, the owner of Bug Juice.”

The team was transferred to Norton, not sold for $1500 as rumored. That amount was an accounting fee to complete the transfer.

BELC spokesman Trevor Small told ILWT this morning that “financially, we couldn’t keep the team afloat. We did not have the resources. We were selling players to pay our bills and that’s no way to grow the game of lacrosse.”

Norton took on the debt and the responsibility of running the team, agreeing to keep it in Brampton for three years. Post-transfer, the BELC has not been involved with the team and it is no longer part of their constitution. They focus solely on running the Brampton Jr. A and B clubs, men’s and women’s field, and men’s masters.

Despite rumours on Twitter, Small said that each member of the BELC was emailed a copy of the original transfer agreement after it was signed, and that all members were asked to keep the terms confidential.

Small said that the decision to transfer the team was not taken lightly, and also that the decision to make the transfer wasn’t a unanimous one. It passed with a ¾ majority.

“We had a responsibility to the players,” he said. “Other than folding the team it was the only option we had. It can cost $150,000 per year to keep a team on the floor. Joe Norton has a legitimate interest in lacrosse and he wants to grow the game. But, he’s a businessman just the same and he had to make a decision where he could recoup at least what he puts in. He should be commended. I can’t speak directly on how much he has spent but I can guess, knowing how much it costs to run a team. He kept lacrosse being played at the major level because we might not have had a Major team in 2018.”

The statement outlined that the team has lost up to $80,000 per year since 2012 with the loss of their original major sponsor and the loss of an annual grant from the City of Brampton.

“The city restructured how funds were dispersed and rewrote the criteria for them and we no longer met that criteria. We exhausted every means to find out why the money wasn’t there,” Small said.

That the City of Brampton had no say in either the sale or the move remains true, and they are of course free to pursue legal action to keep the team in Brampton. But given today’s statement that the sale was duly authorized, will likely find no recourse on which to sue.

“I wish two or three years ago they [had stepped] in and taken some action when we desperately needed the help,” said Small. “How much they’d be willing to put forth now, I couldn’t tell you.”

Small believes that the City was misinformed about the situation by a former board member.

“What hurts me the most is the people on the board are dedicated to lacrosse and have spent decades building the game with the resources that we had. The rumours going around are inaccurate and just not true. We simply did our best for lacrosse. It’s been a very emotional and tough few weeks.”

So, whenever the 2021 MSL season commences, and if the OLA ratifies the relocation, Owen Sound will be a part of the league. But, here’s the good news, Brampton fans – while the MSL team will be moving, the Excelsiors name and logo will stay in Brampton with you. The BELC Board is open to exploring options to bring another team to “Brampton under the Excelsior banner, but [that] will only be done if a new entity comes forward to apply for a new franchise in MSL with the sustainable funding to do so.”