Sinead King has big goals for professional women’s soccer in Vancouver

King is the newly appointed chief business officer for Vancouver’s professional women’s soccer team, which will begin play in the Northern Super League in 2025

Career-wise, Sinead King might have just found her holy trinity.

The lifelong soccer fan and player grew up in the U.K. and studied at the London Institute of Banking and Finance before getting into business operations at HSBC. Eventually, she was stationed in India and oversaw some 1,500 people as the global head of banking operations for the bank. An earlier stint for the company in Vancouver never quite left her mind, though.

After leaving HSBC, she spent some time travelling before coming back to Vancouver and serving as director of partner engagement at Canada Plastics Pact, a non-profit startup that was founded with the goal of trying to reduce plastic waste in Canada and work toward a circular economy.

With experience in both large and small organizations, King felt that her sweet spot “was somewhere in the middle. And I’m a sports nerd, so I always wanted to get into the sports industry.” When an opportunity opened up to be the chief business officer with Vancouver’s new professional women’s soccer team, King jumped.

“As a female that played football, the opportunity to be a part of this growing movement in women’s sport, to set up a pro club in a pro league and really shape the future of girls sports and football specifically, it was too good a job for me to not come banging on the door and convince them to take me,” King says. “The operations experience with the bank, being with a startup and then the personal football background, it was all a perfect blend for me.”

The Northern Super League, a professional Canadian women’s soccer league, is slated to start in 2025. The league will begin play with teams in six cities—Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Vancouver’s team—which doesn’t yet have a logo or a name—is owned by the Vancouver Whitecaps. Only one other team (Calgary) is owned by another soccer franchise (the Calgary Foothills of League1 Alberta).

So far, King and Stephanie Labbé, the team’s general manager, are the only hires announced by the Vancouver club. And while the Whitecaps obviously have a role to play, King stresses that the women’s team will be a separate entity. “It’s been collaborative with the Whitecaps, they’re excited,” she says. “But it will be its own club, its own brand. I’m building my own team here. We don’t want to be in the shadow of the Whitecaps, but we do want to have a close and strong relationship with them.”

King’s initial list of responsibilities and tasks to get sorted before the league begins play are vast. “You’ve got the fun stuff—the logo, the kit, the stadium, the training facilities,” she says. “And then you have to define things like salary caps with the league, player agreements. But in terms of us as a club, it’s figuring what our brand is going to be. What’s our identity? How are we going to connect with the community and what’s the fan engagement piece going to look like?”

The logo and name (and hopefully a stadium announcement) will come this summer, but when pressed on what King and the club might be seeking in terms of a brand, she gives out a few clandestine clues: “We want it to reflect the market we’re in and the geography. We want it to feel like something people can connect with it. So we’re brainstorming with some of the stakeholders and the fans here and making sure we’re engaging with the right people and seeing where we land.”

So far, the league already has media partnerships with TSN and CBC secured, and King is inspired by what other women’s leagues like the National Women’s Soccer League in the U.S. and the Women’s Super League in the U.K have done in terms of building an audience.

“We’ve got the Olympics in a couple weeks, and it’ll be really interesting to see how the strength of our Canadian women’s team can grow with the grassroots and the infrastructure of a pro league,” King says. “We want to grow the quality of the game but also the fanbase. When it comes to the sponsorships, investment and facilities, we anticipate there’s going to be a lot of money in this space in five years’ time. Different to what it is now.”