• A League of Our Own

      The Canadian Soccer Association released the long awaited Easton report - entitled In a League of our Own.

      We'll have a full breakdown of the report and its implications in the days ahead but for now you can see it for yourself after the jump

      Comments 22 Comments
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Finally! Thanks for posting this. Looking forward to reading it tonight.
      1. Monte's Avatar
        Monte -
        Read it and enjoyed it. Pretty much confirms everything I believed all along.

        In Australia, with that much per annum deficit, you'd think there would be a danger of collapse, but if they ride out the storm, they should become profitable in time.

        But as pointed out in the study, with MLS as direct competition, it could be a lot harder to sustain a fully professional club at a loss, especially since it would be seen as a direct Division II feeder league for MLS in it's own right. The other leagues in Australia, Japan and South Korea mentioned in the study are seen as the number one leagues in the country, and as said in the study can then monopolize all the rights.

        So yes, that could be seen as the biggest challenge. Australia can ride that storm to hopeful profitibality off of that analysis, I'm not sure Canada can sustain those losses given MLS's perpetual dominance in that regard.
      1. Initial B's Avatar
        Initial B -
        Well, they sure don't sugarcoat it.

        So long as MLS and NASL exist, there will be no professional league in Canada. And to be honest, I'm okay with that. What is important is putting together a Developmental league (like Hockey's CHL) that will produce good players - European, MLS and NASL clubs will gladly cherry-pick the best players for their leagues, thereby giving Canadian players the ability to keep improving their quality.

        I think it's important that the CSA provides a constitution/template for teams that would meet their requirements, but based on past performance I don't have much confidence that they can find the right direction. So here are some thoughts that might help them on their way:

        - Each team should consist solely of players with Canadian Citizenship under 23 years of age. Any salary they earn would be placed in trust until they graduate from University to comply with CIS/NCAA elligibility requirements.
        - Each team should be allowed to have up to 3-4 player exceptions that are overage and/or non-Canadian to mentor and teach the young ones and raise the level of play.
        - Allow provinces to run a "conference" in this league however they see fit, so long as it meets the guidelines set down in the CSA constitution for inclusion in this level of play.
        - Have a 20-24 game season run from the mid-April to mid-August, to allow the U-23 players to not miss classes or training with their CIS/NCAA Teams. Each conference would choose a Champion at this time by whatever method they see fit.
        - Have the champions congregate in a Canadian city for the last two weeks in August and have the CSA run an elimination tournament to determine the overall Canadian Champion.

        Although I like the idea of allowing the teams to play for the Amway Canadian Championship, there is no way any of these teams would be able to afford to play in the CCL without massive subsidies from the CSA. Perhaps it would be better if they have a Canadian Championship like the Memorial Cup.
      1. DigzTFC's Avatar
        DigzTFC -
        I think that the study is solely about the here and now. As Canadian Pro clubs join the NASL and as the MLS teams start to join USL Pro as a reserve team in a more integrated way, I think there will be a possibility of a Canadian Div2. It's just not here and now. This is the first right step. Build the player pool. Build the professionalism. Venues might come out of this in areas where there are multiple clubs working together with municipalities instead of competing with similar interests (London for example). Div2 will go organically and a large part of that will be MLS increasing the salary cap and making a bigger distance between it and NASL. The assumption that gets overlooked is that Div2 won't be better quality as the years progress. But it will and it will become a viable entertainment option.
      1. ag futbol's Avatar
        ag futbol -
        Interesting read. I take it that's not the full study, but rather a document meant for public consumption.

        Sometimes it's hard to critically evaluate their reasoning within the report, because they are jumping over how they got to conclusions for the purpose of keeping the reader on-track with the larger narrative. Don't disagree with that, but I guess for those of us looking for the nuts-and-blots we won't get to see that far into the analysis.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        It was a much easier read than I was expecting. I wasn't thinking I would actually read it until I opened it and saw the style it was written in.

        I had been dreaming of a full D2 national league, but this does sound like a good idea. Initial B, I think they were suggesting a memorial cup type championship, but they also said they should include some teams in the Voyageurs Cup. I wouldn't be too concerned with what happens if one of these teams made it to the CCL. The benefits to playing in the Voyageurs Cup would be great. You see it all the time in England with the FA cup. A lower level team gets to play at Anfield or Old Trafford and it's a big payday. As the study mentions, the potential for that big pay day also makes it a more enticing league for fans and investors.

        Now I'd just like to start hearing numbers. How many teams would we be aiming for, what kind of attendance would be needed for sustainability, and when can this get started?
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Duane's on the back cover. Does that help or hinder?
      1. Tuscan's Avatar
        Tuscan -
        You know, after reading that it is amazing that it took an independent study from a private consultant to come to those conclusions. Are things really that dysfunctional in this country's soccer infrastructure and collective knowledge that we couldn't have come up with this ourselves? I mean seriously, who here didn't think having a top of the youth pyramid was essential to Canada's elite player pool expanding? While there are a few points that reveal ideas I hadn't considered, the majority are things anyone with any knowledge of soccer in this country would eventually come to if they thought about it. What this study really reveals is that no one at the top was willing to actually sit down and think things through when it came to allowing Canada to become a more successful soccer nation.

        Another point which isn't discussed in this report: Are the provincial associations necessary or are they actually a part of the dysfunction of soccer in this country? Do we really need provincial associations between the CSA and the Districts? Are there actually functions that the provincial associations do that can't be performed by either the CSA or the Districts?
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        It is a well written report and I learned a ton reading it. I have the attention span of a flea but was able to read the whole thing. I actually read the comments before the report and found some of the comments to be good. Someone suggested a competition like the Memorial cup which I thought was a good idea and they also address in the report. Lets hope the CSA use this info and start the process. Im tired of watching Americans play on TFC and the Caps on TV, would rather support some local lads and gals.
      1. ag futbol's Avatar
        ag futbol -
        Quote Originally Posted by Tuscan View Post
        You know, after reading that it is amazing that it took an independent study from a private consultant to come to those conclusions. Are things really that dysfunctional in this country's soccer infrastructure and collective knowledge that we couldn't have come up with this ourselves?
        Agreed, that's part of the reason why I was curious to find out if this was it or this was just a teaser meant for public consumption.

        Anyway, it says summary report on the front cover so I would assume there is a lot more meat to it that's not going to be released. Little bit disappointing for those of us who don't need a refresher in the obvious, but oh well.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        ag futbol said.

        "If this is a supporting doc, then great, it does it's job. It takes someone through the story in non-technical language without getting muddled on the small stuff.

        If this is the final product, the CSA should get a refund. It's basically 15 pages of glossy pictures with 15 pages of heuristics & cliches that are held tightly within certain quarters of the soccer establishment. They haven't backed up a lot of their claims within the document so I hope the associated proof is somewhere. Otherwise, any aspiring university student with a mild knowledge of the game and a healthy ability to use google could have produced this without cost."

        IT says on the cover that its a SUMMARY REPORT. I heard that this is a massive paper. I would also like to read it. Not sure if the CSA will release it all.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Thanks for putting this up. Interesting to see where the CSA's head may be at. As the doc said it wasn't the answer I wanted but probably the only reasonable one at this point in time. Think about the Hargreaves and others that not only chose other countries, but were PASSED up by the Canadian national team setup. A regional PDL would make it less likely to overlook those talented players...We can't do anything about players that decide they're not Canadian, but if we latch on while they're young then maybe they will stick around. If we improve the general level of young Canadian players, it follows that the national team will improve irrespective of the Hargreaves, Hoilletts, Lenskys, Begovics, JDG2s...It's only when we get better without them that those dirtbag mercenary types may choose to don the maple leaf.

        I'm a die-hard national Greek football supporter, but I was born here in Canada. I'm not the only second generation Canadian that would prefer not to have to look overseas for representation at major international football competitions. Go Canada.
      1. TFCfan4life's Avatar
        TFCfan4life -
        Not the result I wanted. How is a country without a professional football league is supposed to compete in this game? Those 4 professional teams are way too low in numbers and they depend on another country's leagues. Playing by their rules, for their objectives, not Canada's.

        Learn from MLS and apply the same survival rules to Division II here. If the CSA does not get the ball rolling in establishing this league, and recruit some owners, it will never happen. If they listen to this report, it never will (people said TFC would not fly and look at the success they have been in spite of MLSE).

        Establishing a CHL style U-23 league is a start, but what happens when those players turn 24? There will never be enough professional teams here to keep their careers going. I don't think its enough.

        Has the CSA come out and stated what they plan to do going foreward based on this report?
      1. TFCfan4life's Avatar
        TFCfan4life -
        Looks like they are going the CHL U-23 road. I hope it develops enough talent to put Canada in the World Cup.

      1. Initial B's Avatar
        Initial B -
        Guys, the Phase I part of the report was available at the ReThink Website ( http://rethinkmanagementgroup.com/in_league ), although I can't find it now. The Report contained a SWOT (Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats) Analysis for each of the four options it was considering, along with appendices with additional information. This phase 2 report regurgitates most of what was said in that report, but with some additional information on why the U-23 option was perfered overall.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        Except for one problem - take away the NHL and there is no CHL.

        If leagues in Europe were U23 they would bust. Even the Olympics which had the best countries on the planet had flat sales in an absolutely football-mad culture, and with no competition from the EPL and domestic leagues. They ended up giving tickets away to schools.

        How about if the CFL was U23? You think anyone would want to go watch?

        The goal of a national league isn't player development! It's development of the game!
      1. Duane Rollins's Avatar
        Duane Rollins -
        Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
        Duane's on the back cover. Does that help or hinder?

        Depends if they were looking to make Canadian fans seem sane, or not.

        Edit: Forget me. There are a lot of people in that back photo that helped us get even this far through their loyalty to the domestic game through many dark years. I'm sure it's because of the Duane who spells his name wrong that they put that shot there, but the happenstance of it is fitting.
      1. Unregistered's Avatar
        Unregistered -
        it is a very good point made by Unregistered 9:37am that without an NHL, the CHL doesn't exist (or at least not the way it does now).

        fixing the sport of soccer in Canada at the D3 level is important because it addresses a major gap in our player development model right now (what to do with a player after the age of 17). We can't rely on a small number of MLS clubs or sending our players away to NCAA or overseas clubs. Those strategies are not dramatically different than the old model of provincial teams, NTC's, NCAA and overseas clubs, which didn't work.

        We need a professional development structure that is primarily for younger players (U23) but which still provides opportunities for some older players to provide mentorship and improve the quality of the play overall. This seems to be what we've got laid out before us.

        That said, for this D3 model to work optimally and be sustainable, there needs to be a fully professional league above it. There needs to be a domestic marketplace for the players being developed at the local D3 level. Whether this happens by having 4-8 teams in NASL or creating a league of our own, this is the piece of the puzzle that needs to be inserted into the Canadian soccer landscape to make all of this work make sense.

        Nonetheless, this is progress.
      1. Fhurion's Avatar
        Fhurion -
        Thanks for posting Ben, this is an interesting piece to read and it's for the best if it gets disseminated as much as possible.

        I'm not going to lie, as much as I'd like to see an all-Canadian pro league, I always knew it was a long-shot with the limited metro markets, travel distance, costs, competition etc. etc. as the report points out. I think Supporters, while genuine in their belief, are naive if we think that a fully Canadian pro league would be truly viable, long term.

        As such, I think a U23 umbrella league is a good compromise for youth development, but should be coupled with fully throwing our hat in the ring with the Yanks. With Ottawa NASL coming online next year and other possible D2 expansion cities available (QC, Calgary, Hamilton/GTA, Winnipeg, Victoria), albeit with some work to be done to get there, we could still develop the spots of 23+ players to play pro going forward. The path is clear...now let us hope the CSA et al get to work and make it happen!
      1. John Bladen's Avatar
        John Bladen -
        Nothing really revolutionary in the report. Having said that, it was well done and perhaps the CSA will actually listen to the feedback they get from a report they commissioned. It is a great deal easier to accept ideas when they come from a source like this than the kind of (overwhelmingly negative) feedback the CSA has received from players, administrators, members, fans and the media.

        Regional leagues are really the only way to go and I think we all understood this... but the real issue will be how the CSA administers the migration from the present sea of individual fiefdoms, clubs, leagues and the like to a streamlined national system like the CHL has had for decades. It goes without saying that the same people who've been protecting their fiefdoms for decades under the present system will be obstacles to progress under the "new" one.

        While the USL system has had it's own problems, there is no reason we couldn't duplicate that kind of system of regional leagues (particularly at the equivalent to PDL level) domestically.

        If done properly, the transformation will hardly be noticeable for a couple of decades... a few new teams here and there, a few existing teams perhaps leaving their current (non-Canadian) leagues for newly created Canadian options... I think we'd be fooling ourselves if we think a grassroots movement can create stability and a thriving footballing culture overnight. If the CSA adopts the regional league model as suggested here, it will still take 15-20 years of good management and administration to develop a self sustaining league system. And there will inevitably be a few steps backward along the way (failing teams, people who need to be weeded out of the system etc).

        At some point, it may be obvious that there are 8-12 clubs from among the 40-50 in the regional leagues that are actually strong enough to form a national league. But until we have those 10 clubs that are simply "too big" to stay in the regional leagues, a national option does not exist.
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