Women of the CPL: The magic behind matchday
Canadian Premier League

Throughout March, the Canadian Premier League will celebrate the contributions and showcase the impact of the women of the Canadian Premier League. We are proud to recognize the influence the women of our League have on our community both individually and collectively. We hope their stories inspire girls and women to see a future in our beautiful game, whether on the field or off of it, because if she can see it, she can be it.

Today, Ashley Jimenez, Matchday Director, Cavalry FC, and Kristen Johnston, Director, Gameday Operations, Atlético Ottawa, share their experience working in Matchday Operations: 

At TD Place Stadium six hours before kickoff, the pitch is serene. 

For most of the week the stadium is calm, playing host to training sessions or other events. But something changes on gameday, said Kristen Johnston, Director, Gameday Operations for Atleti.


“It becomes a buzz of energy,” Johnston said. “It’s constant. I arrive about four to six hours ahead of the game to get the show on the road.”


Johnston is the choreographer of matchday, planning and implementing the assets fans interact with including games, entertainers and inflatables.

“Sports is entertainment. So my job is to make fun experiences for the fans so they come back and fill the seats,” she said.

Johnston works with volunteers and matchday staff to get everything set up as efficiently as possible, leaving time to deal with unexpected bumps in the road.

“Before the match I’m running around meeting the inflatables company, the (pyrotechnics) company, and making sure the entertainers are here,” Johnston said. “Of course people forget certain materials they need for set up, like rope, so it’s my team’s job to fill those gaps too.”

Meticulously planning the matchday schedule prior to gameday helps Johnston keep everything on track. 

Leading up to games, she runs meetings to discuss themes, content and entertainment to hire. From there, she will create a production rundown and a script for the announcer, as well as meet with safety and fire technicians. 

“While we focus on fun for the fans, we also focus on welfare,” said Johnston. “I’m not sure people realize how much time we spend on their concerns and their safety. We take that very seriously.”

Things can still go wrong. Johnston must be prepared for any situation, the most challenging part of her job. It is also a duty she shares with Caitlin O’Brien, Coordinator, Operations for Atleti.



“There are things you can’t predict like weather,” Johnston said. “You have to have a backup plan for things like rain or thunder. Having Plan Bs is important.” 

For Ashley Jimenez, Matchday Director, Cavalry FC, rainy weather is something she knows all too well. 

Thunderstorms are synonymous with Calgary summers. Jimenez always has an emergency action plan that focuses on the safety of players, fans and matchday employees in the event of delays for weather or power. 


“It’s just being able to work through it,” Jimenez said. “We’ve got emergency protocols and plans in place ahead of time. It’s not always perfect, but we do our best especially as things can happen really fast.”


Due to the fleeting nature of gameday operations, Jimenez says it’s all about organization, planning and staying on your toes.

To be a successful Matchday Director, Jimenez also recommends keeping calm under pressure and being able to communicate with colleagues. It’s an ability she shares with Johnston as well as Kira Raps, the longtime soccer operations manager for Pacific FC, who is currently on maternity leave for the 2023 season. Raps is similarly the face of calm in the middle of the storm that is matchday, a linchpin that keeps all staff, volunteers, referees. players, and suppliers in check to keep up with the precise timing required to pull off a smooth and successful gameday experience.



“It can be challenging when there’s miscommunication, especially because planning is so important to my job,” Jimenez said. “But it’s rewarding to see the whole thing come together for the fans… it’s really quite fun.”

When it comes to getting a job in gameday operations, Jimenez recommends getting experience in sport management or event planning. She also suggests you show prospective employers your dedication and willingness to work hard.

“Put your best foot forward and be open to everything. It’s not always going to be about the dollars you make at the end of the day, but your love for the sport,” Jimenez said. “Don’t give up and be brave enough to follow your passion.”


Julia Ranney is a freelance writer based in Toronto.