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  • Canada II – CSA reform?


    With the Gold Cup over, we have entered a deeply quiet period in Canadian soccer. No games, no news.

    The late stages of 2008 brought something rare to those of us who keenly and critically follow the doings (and undoings) of the Canadian Soccer Association:



    With Peter Montopoli installed as general secretary, the CSA made a series of solid decisions. Stephen Hart as technical director. The same Stephen Hart as interim coach of the senior men’s national team. Carolina Morace as head coach and uberboss of the women’s national program.

    Traditionally, there have been two glaring weaknesses with our soccer bureaucrats: corporate structure and funding. As 2009 dawned, it looked as though the bureaucracy was under control, and new sources of funding were imminent.

    Have you ever waited a bit too long for a bus? Got to that point where you legitimately wonder if the bus is even coming? That’s about where things stand today.

    For decades, the CSA board has needed pruning. An antiquated, obsolete system gives votes to every province, and at least some of the territories. Consensus is difficult, doubly so because not all of these local reps have any blessed clue about the realities of contemporary world soccer.

    I would expect things to be quiet during a time of reform, hoping that everyone’s huddling to make the deals necessary to trim at least eight heads off this dragon. But there’s quiet – and then there’s silence.

    Getting details on the CSA used to literally be as easy as turning on my computer. Not now. This suggests strongly that Montopoli has rightly explained to these folks that, from a corporate integrity point of view, all the leaks weren’t helping.

    But anyone who’s ever played this game knows there would almost certainly be leaks all over the place if anything big were actually imminent. If eight provincial reps knew they were getting axed, or having their influence drastically reduced, I would be hearing cries and whimpers from all sorts of odd angles. I’m not.

    All right, maybe that’s not a problem. If Montopoli could get the CSA to accept Morace, maybe he’s just found ways to work effectively with the existing board. Miracles do happen sometimes. But if that’s so, where are all the funding announcements?

    The CSA has an annual budget of about $13-million. Only a million of that comes from the federal government. Most of the rest dribbles in from amateur player registration fees. The CSA made a big play last fall for a $5-per-head increase. It was almost universally rejected – primarily because the proposal was pitched too late in the year, when most of Canada’s amateur soccer clubs had already drawn up their 2009 operating budgets.

    (Yes, you read all of that correctly.)

    There is no sane, successful soccer nation on this planet that funds its World Cup dreams that way. Generally, pro clubs run things, and Canada has only three of those, and by global standards, they are three very small fish.

    But bless Montopoli, he knows fee hikes alone cannot be the answer. He has said publicly – to me, directly, down the phone at a press conference a few months back – that corporate partnerships “are the goal, and have always been the goal.”


    Now – where are they?

    Oh, it’s a wreck of a recession out there, but the markets have had four winning months on the trot, and stock prices have recovered something like 40 per cent of their pre-crash value. The trough is shallowing. Opportunities are out there.

    The CSA seemed ready to ramp things up when they officially shifted their primary focus to the women’s team. More successful, guaranteed World Cup participants. But – where are the sponsors?

    I’ll admit, I don’t get sponsorship leaks nearly often or as easily as other CSA stuff. They’ve been careful not to blab about possible bucks, even since the spectacular chain-reaction gaffe-tastrophe that was the Canadian United Soccer League plan.

    But any serious reform of Canada’s woefully inadequate player development system needs serious financing. Ultimately, this is where Montopoli succeeds of fails. Right now, there is still no news.

    I would really love to see Montopoli score right now. The entire program is in the doldrums, and directionlessness seems all too comfortably in place.

    We need a full and thorough progress report. Something that proves the bureaucracy’s been tamed, and massive new funding has been found.

    This deep ongoing silence is actually encouraging – in some ways. But it doesn’t solve the problems, and the problems still get bigger by the day.


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