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Winnipegger Litz chosen to lead new professional women’s soccer league – Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipegger Litz chosen to lead new professional women’s soccer league – Winnipeg Free Press
Winnipegger Litz chosen to lead new professional women’s soccer league – Winnipeg Free Press

The Northern Super League, Canada’s emerging women’s professional soccer league, will not have a Winnipeg team in its inaugural season in 2025, but it will have an influential Winnipegger at the helm of its power structure.

The NSL announced Monday that Christina Litz, a University of Manitoba-trained lawyer and longtime sports executive, has been named its first president.

In recent months, Litz has served as an advisor to NSL founders Diana Matheson and Thomas Gilbert. During that time, the league has undergone a brand launch and announced a multi-year television broadcast agreement with TSN, RDS, CBC and Radio-Canada.

Christina Litz (delivered)

“Given how well (Canadians) are doing on the international stage, if we want to stay there and we want to get more Desiree Scotts out of Winnipeg, we need to have a pathway for them to play at the highest level in their country,” said Litz, who was chief brand and commercial officer at True North Sports and Entertainment until last fall.

“And so that’s the vision. That’s what we want to bring to life here and I’m very excited to be a part of that.”

Matheson will continue to be the voice of the new league as Chief Growth Officer. Litz’s Manitoba roots made her a natural fit for a Winnipeg-based team.

The NSL, however, will begin next April without a franchise in Manitoba’s capital. A six-team league with clubs in Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary was unveiled in late May.

“It was recommended at the time that if we were going to get a Winnipeg team, Christina Litz would be a fantastic person to help build that club,” said Matheson, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist who retired from the national team in 2021. “And then it turned out that we weren’t going to be able to get a Winnipeg team, at least not until 2025, and so we moved into conversations about a potential role in the league.”

Litz’s expertise was developed during her work at TNSE and previously at the CFL, where she served as Chief Marketing, Digital & Strategy Officer.

“She has the perfect experience for us,” Matheson said. “And that was a goal of this league, to create opportunities and jobs for women in sports and in this entire ecosystem. And for me, the best leaders I’ve had have always surrounded themselves with people who were smarter than them and had more experience than them.

“That’s what we wanted for whoever led this project, and Christina has seen it all at the competitive level and at the club level. It’s a real draw, or strength of this project, that we’ve been able to attract such incredible people in business and women in business in particular.”

The timing of the NSL couldn’t have been better, as business in professional women’s leagues such as the WNBA and the Professional Women’s Hockey League was booming.

“Really, we’re following the playbook of the PWHL, where we know that broad exposure to the game is key to growth,” Litz said, noting that 150 Canadians play in women’s professional leagues around the world. “We really believe, based on the way our business plan is set up, that we’re going to attract some of the best Canadian players that are playing around the world.”

Establishing a national competition for Canadians is the priority for Litz and Matheson.

“The reality is that in Canada there are only three pathways to the national team and you really have to live near Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. What this professional league does is create pathways to the professional game and to the national team so we can get more talent out of cities like Winnipeg and play on the national team because the talent is absolutely there,” Matheson said.

Canada’s Diana Matheson walks across the field with a Canadian flag after scoring the winning goal in the 92nd minute to beat France 1-0 in the bronze medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press files)

“A lucky few and a few incredible stars like Desiree Scott break through, but I guarantee you there are more Desiree Scotts in Winnipeg.”

Finding an owner and a suitable playing location are crucial for Winnipeg and any other potential franchise location. Matheson, who hopes to expand to seven or eight teams within two years and a 12-team league within 10, said the league plans to have a salary cap of $1.5 million with a minimum of $50,000 per player.

“We’re behind the rest of the world in terms of soccer-specific infrastructure and in most cases we have stuff that’s either too small and not quite up to standard or way too big,” Matheson said. “I would say that’s the case everywhere, but every ownership group, every team that we have, has both a short-term view and a long-term view.