Business challenge

MLSE’s strategic vision is to deliver winning teams and the ultimate fan experiences. To support these initiatives, the company wanted to streamline its outdated finance systems.


MLSE turned to trusted partners IBM Services to help identify, evaluate and implement the cloud-based Oracle ERP solutions, to lay a robust foundation for its ambitious future strategy.



invoices processed with improved automation enables MLSE to direct time, resources to value-add tasks


of hours saved using automated workflows, imaging and OCR to streamline operations


to support the Vision 2020 initiative to digitally transform the business and fan experience

Business challenge story

Delivering memorable fan experiences

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) owns some of Canada’s leading sporting franchises, including the Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey), the Toronto Raptors (basketball), Toronto FC (soccer) and the Toronto Argonauts (Canadian Football League). MLSE also runs a flourishing live entertainment division and operates multiple venues in Toronto.

Within MLSE, the finance team plays a central role in the day-to-day running of the business. Employees are responsible for key financial management tasks, as well as facilitating new revenue-driving programs. The finance team also helps support strong relationships with major sponsors such as Scotiabank – one of the largest partnership deals in global sports marketing.

To lay the foundations for long-term, sustainable success, MLSE recently launched the ‘Vision 2020’ project, aiming to deliver everything from on-field wins and personalized fan experiences to community support programs, while opening up new commercial opportunities.

Greg Kinch, Senior Director of Finance at MLSE, explains, “Our mission is to provide extraordinary moments for our many fans, and a huge part of that is creating winning teams. At MLSE our philosophy is that ‘it takes the whole organization to win’: we believe every employee, from our administrative staff to our star players, can make a valuable contribution.

“We were reliant on an outdated on-premise ERP solution that limited our ability to innovate. We were heavily paper-based, and to complete tasks such as journal entries and payment approvals, our staff manually entered data and validated items, soaking up valuable hours. To achieve our strategic goals, we wanted to find a new, modern solution.”

IBM has been central in helping us to work smarter and faster, enabling our finance team to make an even greater contribution to the future success of the Maple Leaf sports franchises.

Greg Kinch, Senior Director, Finance, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Transformation story

Looking to win in the efficiency league

As MLSE drew up plans for the new solution, it turned to IBM Services for support. The IBM team helped MLSE to create a detailed breakdown of requirements, identify and evaluate potential vendor solutions, and developed an implementation roadmap.

After thorough assessment of the available solutions – including product demonstrations – MLSE chose to deploy Oracle ERP Cloud and Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud.

Greg Kinch explains, “In connection with our Partnership agreement with IBM, we have worked on a number of successful initiatives in recent years, so they were our go-to pick.

“We focused the selection criteria on ease of use and integration capabilities with our other core systems. The Oracle offering was the standout, mature solution we wanted, offering the richest functionality and the most cost-efficient option. IBM Services gave us great advice on the solutions, but stepped back to ensure the final decision belonged to MLSE – something we really appreciate.”

The Oracle solutions provide a comprehensive financial management backbone for MLSE. The deployment covers modules including General Ledger, Payables and Invoice Imaging, Fixed Assets, Cash Management, Projects, Procurement, and Receivables.

The rollout of the solution was the first Oracle ERP Cloud project in the sports and entertainment sector in Canada, and at the go-live point, was the largest Canadian Oracle ERP Cloud project.

IBM helped MLSE implement the solution, and assisted with developing the change management plan, based on industry experience and best practices. To implement the solutions, IBM Services followed a three-tiered delivery model, combining on-site teams, near-shore resources from IBM Client Innovation Center in Montreal, and support from IBM Global Delivery Center in India. The teams worked closely with subject matter experts at MLSE using the ‘Two-in-a-Box’ methodology. For each Oracle module, MLSE assigned a dedicated representative to work closely alongside their IBM counterpart, to solve issues and smoothen adoption.

Following the seven-month deployment process, MLSE went live with a ‘big bang’ changeover on 6 March 2018. The company took advantage of a one-month post-implementation hypercare package from IBM Services.

Moataz Abdellateef, Senior Director, Strategy at MLSE, comments, “We had great support and timely decisions from our Executive Sponsor within MLSE, and great communication between the IBM team and our subject experts. The combined implementation team worked closely as one unit, with both MLSE and IBM personnel, and this collaboration was key to the success of the project. We did not operate a vendor/client relationship, but rather became one team committed to one goal.

“We developed very strong working relationships over the course of the project, and IBM impressed us with their deep technical knowledge of the Oracle solutions. The change management lead from IBM was good at explaining the impact of the new software to our staff, as some processes that have been in place for up to 20 years were transformed.

“It is rare for a major ERP project to run on time and on budget, but thanks to the efforts of all of the ERP team members we stayed on track and hit our target date and spend – a great result. It’s another great chapter in our partnership with IBM.”

IBM Services showed us how what was initially a foreign technology to MLSE can be a safe strategic path, creating an attractive, flexible and scalable platform for future functionalities.

Moataz Abdellateef, Senior Director, Strategy, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Results story

Back of the net

Supported by IBM and Oracle, MLSE has gained a robust, modern financial management platform with comprehensive, advanced capabilities to help drive the next stages of the ambitious Vision 2020 initiative.

By automating many time-consuming manual workflows, MLSE will be able to refocus its resources on more value-add, collaborative tasks. For example, invoice imaging based on optical character recognition (OCR) technology will enable MLSE staff to scan and process invoices with minimal manual data entry. Similarly, electronic approvals of purchase orders, journal entries, and requisitions will contribute to smoother workflows, as employees will no longer have to spend time checking that they have the signatures of someone with the correct level of authority.

MLSE also uses electronic approvals for payments: once it has a set number of electronic funds transfers ready, it can approve the entire batch and forward the request to the bank, speeding the completion of payments to key suppliers and partners.

In combination the Oracle Cloud ERP and Oracle Planning and Budgeting solutions help MLSE plan, budget and forecast with one tool instead of using and integrating multiple systems.

The ability to track and analyze purchases through automatic routing of requisitions and purchase orders enables greater procurement control, while automated invoice processing and reporting has eliminated significant manual workload.

MLSE staff will now have significantly more time to devote to supporting other areas of the business. That could mean preparing a business case analysis for colleagues working in the ticketing and merchandizing divisions, or delving into sponsorship data to generate new insights into commercial partnerships.

Greg Kinch continues, “By cutting out inefficient manual tasks, IBM and Oracle are helping MLSE operate in a more agile way. Thanks to the Oracle solutions, we can automate many financial workflows, and accelerate the processing of key tasks such as invoices, purchase orders and journal entries. Previously, we would spend countless hours entering data to our old ERP system, including over 60,000 paper invoices each year; now, we are building more efficient ways of working and will enjoy significant time savings.

“The amount of paper in the office was a major headache for us, and being able to digitize so many items with the Oracle solutions is a huge win. We can now store our invoices and journal entries as digital copies, making it significantly easier to pinpoint documents. Whenever we have a request from auditors for a specific item, we can draw it out within seconds.”

The Oracle solutions provide the up-to-date integration functionality that MLSE requires to streamline its overall business operations, one of many IT projects designed to support the company’s business strategy. MLSE is also investigating the potential of expanding its use of Oracle Cloud solutions. For example, the group recently acquired the Toronto Argonauts Canadian Football team, and will be looking to onboard the team’s back-office functions onto the new ERP systems.

Moataz Abdellateef comments, “The success of this implementation establishes the foundation for numerous initiatives MLSE has in mind. IBM Services showed us how what was initially a foreign technology to MLSE can be a safe strategic path, creating an attractive, flexible and scalable platform for future functionalities. Importantly, the IBM governance model showed us how project control should be implemented, leading to a great result.

“IBM and MLSE have proven that big companies can operate in a nimble, agile and flexible fashion to deliver success; big doesn’t equate to slow and expensive, it equates to rapid and cost-effective.”

Greg Kinch concludes, “We are really pleased with the reporting functionality of the Oracle solutions. The Projects Costing module, for instance, is helping us to track our sponsorship business in greater depth. We already make extensive use of the Oracle Smart View for Office feature, which allows us to import and slice and dice ERP data as we prepare reports, and provide stakeholders across the business with detailed insights.

“It is difficult to quantify the importance of this project – we simply had to update our existing system. With the Oracle solution implemented and enabled by IBM Services, we have gained the top-of-the-line systems we need. IBM has been central in helping us to work smarter and faster, enabling our finance team to make an even greater contribution to the future success of the Maple Leaf sports franchises.”

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Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE) is Canada’s leader in delivering top quality sport and entertainment experiences. It is the parent company of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, MLS’s Toronto FC, the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts, as well as numerous development teams. MLSE owns or operates all the venues its teams play and train at, including Scotiabank Arena, BMO Field, Coca-Cola Coliseum and MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence. MLSE also provides memorable live music and entertainment events.

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