TORONTO — There is a new man in charge at Toronto FC.
No, Tim Bezbatchenko is still the team’s general manager, and coach Greg Vanney hasn’t been replaced, but TFC does have a new boss, as former Real Salt Lake executive Bill Manning has been hired as club president.
TFC made the official announcement on Monday, and said Manning will oversee all team and business operations for the club starting on Oct. 16.
“Just as we have worked to add star talent on the pitch to help build Toronto FC into a consistent contender in Major League Soccer, today we are thrilled to add an equally as important and impressive executive in Bill Manning to lead the club,” said Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman of the MLSE Board of Directors, in a media release. “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.”
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Manning, 50, served as president of Real Salt Lake from 2008 until this past August when his contract expired. During his time in Utah he was twice named MLS Executive of the Year (in 2012 and 2014), and Real Salt Lake won the MLS Cup in 2009.
MLSE had been looking to hire a new club president for over a year, and had talks with a number of candidates, including Italian executive Umberto Gandini, a club director at Serie A team AC Milan. MLSE also pursued former Real Salt Lake general manager Garth Lagerwey, and ex-Canadian national team coach Holger Osieck.
Manning’s arrival represents a major change in TFC’s management structure, as Bezbatchenko will work under the president, much like Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos reports to Paul Beeston, president of Toronto’s Major League Baseball club.
Since entering the league in 2007, TFC has generally operated with its GM serving as the team architect and final decision maker. The only dedicated club president they’ve had was Kevin Payne, who was also the club’s GM. Payne was fired by MLSE president and CEO Tim Leiweke in 2013 after less than a year on the job.
“In its first nine years, Toronto FC has established itself as one of the most important franchises in Major League Soccer and I am greatly honoured for the opportunity to lead this club,” Manning said in a news release. “TFC has made important strides this season, as the club pushes for its first-ever playoff berth in a premier, newly-renovated stadium, in front of some of the very best supporters in the league.
“I look forward to working with Tim Bezbatchenko, Greg Vanney and the TFC staff at this exciting time and I am grateful to Mr. Tanenbaum and the MLSE ownership for this opportunity to come to a world-class city, and club, to help make its championship vision a reality.”
Toronto currently sits fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 14-13-4 record, needing only a point from its final three games of the season to clinch a franchise-first playoff berth. A loss or tie by Orlando City in either of its final two games would also see TFC clinch a playoff spot.
The top six in the conference qualify for the post-season, while the third- and fourth-place teams will host first-round playoff games. Toronto is a point behind the Columbus Crew in the East and a point up on the Montreal Impact, and has a game in hand on both clubs.
TFC welcomes the New York Red Bulls (first place in MLS) to BMO Field on Wednesday, and then plays Columbus at home on Saturday. The Reds close out the regular season away to Montreal on Oct. 25.