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  • CSL sanctioning: what it could mean for the region and Toronto FC Academy


    Last month, Canadian Soccer News reported that only two of the current 14 Canadian Soccer League teams were meeting the standards for Division 3 sanctioning in Canada. The most glaring of which, a Canadian Soccer Association audit revealed, was a lack of compliance on player's salaries. Only the York Region Shooters and the Montreal Impact Academy were deemed to be in compliance. Toronto FC's Academy was not included in the audit findings because of its unique association with MLS.

    Since that article was published last month, a number of players, past and present, have come forward to speak to CSN about their lack of pay. Those who were receiving salaries told stories of excessive fines - levied against players for trivial infractions such as being late for practice - which essentially, when accumulated, negated much of their pay. Those players, who have asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, stated simply that this practice was common among a number of teams in the league (but not all) and that it was a way for some of those teams who were losing money, to help recoup part of their costs.

    D3 standards - which is classified as semi-professional - ensure that a minimum of nine players are paid at least $5,000 a season per player. Those who CSN spoke to and had been on the paid player list, said that they had rarely seen all of that. Not all of the players that CSN spoke to told stories of receiving docked pay, but they would attest to their teammates assertions that they were being 'excessively fined.'

    In mid-December, because of some procedural paperwork, the CSA granted the CSL a month reprieve to bring forward findings that showed it was meeting the standards. The CSL will once again meet with the CSA this week to review its sanctioning.

    Those close to the situation - including members on the professional committee - have told CSN that the CSA would be willing to overlook small infractions that did not fall in line with the D3 standards but stressed that those that were held in high regard, including player's salaries, would not be passed over lightly.

    Which means, baring an accounting miracle, that the CSL could lose its nationally sanctioned D3 status in the next week.


    At which point, they would be forced to apply to sanctioning on the provincial level - in this case that means the Ontario Soccer Association. That also means, that as a provincially sanctioned league, they would have to limit their play to one province. Given that this is a predominately Ontario league, only the Montreal Impact Academy falls outside of Ontario's jurisdiction, the CSL would then have to cut ties with the Montreal team to apply for OSA sanctioning.

    And what makes this mess all the more interesting is that the OSA has just given provisional sanctioning to the newly formed senior men's league, Ontario League One - which, in part, is made up of teams who broke away from the CSL prior to last season. It's unclear at this point whether the OSA would be willing to sanction another semi-professional league in such short order (it has taken over a year to get League One to this point) but what is clear is that if the CSL finds itself as a league without a home for 2012 and opts to operate as an unsanctioned league, Toronto FC Academy will have some difficult decisions to make.

    Players who play in unsanctioned leagues, or are associated with unsanctioned leagues, are not eligible to participate in provincial and national team setups.

    In September of 2011, TFC Academy, who has produced a number of first team players in recent years, saw Ashtone Morgan receive a call up to the Canadian national team - a first for the club. The previous Fall, Morgan made his debut appearance for Toronto's top squad, when he featured in the Champions League match against Arabe Unido. He would make the Canada U-20 squad the same year. It wouldn't be until the next spring when he joined the first team on a full time basis, that he cut his ties with the Academy and signed a fully professional contract.

    Morgan's path has been a unique one, but one that demonstrates the precarious nature Toronto now finds itself in. If the CSL loses its CSA sanctioning next week (and there is nothing to suggest that it won't) it could start a downward spiral that finds Toronto Academy players ineligible to factor in national team setups. That won't immediately effect the Senior Men's team but it will have a dramatic effect on the U-17 and U-20 sides which are now drawing heavily on the MLS academies. Young players, who are looking to make a name for themselves by showing well with the national side at international tournaments, may be forced to look elsewhere and move clubs.

    Last season, Toronto supporter groups hung a banner across Lamport Stadium that read: "TFC Academy: Your Future Starts Here." Big and bold, the banner could be seen as far away as the parking lot.

    But right now, with much in the way, the future isn't clear for the CSL, the region or TFC Academy.

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