MLSE parts ways with Toronto FC, Argonauts president Bill Manning

MLSE parts ways with Toronto FC, Argonauts president Bill Manning

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment has parted ways with Bill Manning, president of Toronto FC and the Toronto Argonauts.

MLSE says Manning’s exit was by mutual decision.

“On behalf of MLSE’s board of directors and the entire organization, we want to thank Bill for his many contributions in his nearly nine years with the company,” MLSE president and CEO Keith Pelley said in a statement. “Bill will always be an important part of the championship history for both clubs, but as we evaluate the path ahead, and measure against our ambition to consistently deliver contending teams, it was determined that a new direction was required.

“Bill is a very accomplished team executive, and a good man, and we wish him and his family the very best in the future.”

Toronto FC (7-13-3) is sliding down the MLS Eastern Conference standings having lost six straight in league play and is winless in nine (0-7-2). News of Manning’s departure comes the morning after a 2-1 loss to CPL champion Forge FC in the first leg of the Canadian Championship semifinal.

The Toronto Argonauts are 2-2-0 this season.

Manning was named TFC president in October 2015 and later added the title of Argos president when the Canadian Football League franchise was acquired by MLSE in January 2018.

While TFC won the treble in 2017, the club has not made the playoffs since 2020, when it lost in the first round.

As part of the transition, Toronto FC general manager Jason Hernandez and Argonauts GM Michael Clemons will report directly to MLSE president and CEO Keith Pelley.

Manning was a two-time winner of Major League Soccer’s Executive of the Year award with Real Salt Lake before joining TFC.

His hiring meant there was a president in charge in each of MLSE’s prized assets: Brendan Shanahan with the Maple Leafs, Masai Ujiri with the Raptors and Manning with TFC.

At the time, MLSE chair Larry Tanenbaum called Manning an “important and impressive executive.”

“Our ambition is to bring MLS championships to our fans in Toronto and adding a leader of Bill’s calibre is another important part of that process and vision,” Tanenbaum added.

Manning did that. But the franchise has been in free fall in recent years.

TFC had been without a president since firing Kevin Payne, who doubled as GM, in September 2013.

Manning, who won the MLS’s top executive award in 2012 and 2014, left his job as president of Real Salt Lake and Rio Tinto Stadium in August 2015 after eight years.

Under Manning, Real Salt Lake won the 2009 MLS Cup and was runner-up in 2013. The club also thrived off the field.

A native of Massapequa, N.Y., Manning was an all-American soccer player at the University of Bridgeport. After college, he won a U.S. Open Cup with the Brooklyn Italians in 1991, and played professionally in the United Soccer League.

He also holds a U.S. Soccer National “A” Coaching Licence.

Manning began his career in sports management with the Continental Indoor Soccer League during its inaugural season in 1993. He subsequently moved on to the United Soccer League with the Long Island Rough Riders and then the Minnesota Thunder where he was named USL Executive of the Year in 1999.

He started in MLS in 2000 as president and GM of the Tampa Bay Mutiny.

In the wake of Tampa folding, Manning worked for the NBA Houston Rockets (director of corporate partnerships) and then the NFL Philadelphia Eagles (vice-president sales and services) before Real Salt Lake brought him back to MLS in 2008.

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