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  • New Year’s wish II: Canada


    Okay. Here’s where we stand:

    The Canadian Soccer Association’s new strategic plan relies heavily on a five-dollar fee increase for all of this nation’s 800,000 or so registered players. The request is being voted down by clubs and provinces alike, for two major reasons.


    1) The request came after most organizations had already set their fee structures for 2009. Recalling all the info that’s been sent out, then resending it with a fee increase isn’t sitting well – although quite a few organizations seem happy to approve the increase next year.

    2) Numerous people behind the scenes, with a direct say in the matter, have told me they’re reluctant to approve the increase because they have no direct, simple sense of what the CSA will do with the funds. (The strategic plan has over 200 goals.)

    So – the new year dawns, and one of two things will now happen. Either the CSA will put large sections of the plan on hold, or they will find new ways of raising and generating money.

    The second option IS the way forward. But the first – holding out and trying again next year – seems far more likely to be the way our soccer governing body proceeds.

    If I’ve got any of this drastically wrong, I invite the CSA to contact me and set me straight.

    Indirectly, that brings us to the Dale Mitchell issue. The reigning head coach of Canada’s senior men’s soccer team has had two consecutive terrible runs, the 2007 World Youth Cup and this past year’s 0-2-4 and out-the-door World Cup qualifying run. He has lost the fans, and several key players.

    He has not, however, lost his job.

    The most likely reason is money. The CSA doesn’t have any, and their fee increase is going down like a lead-winged plummeting gannet. Firing Dale would mean paying two head coaches simultaneously for another year.

    One wonders if anyone will ever get a contract from the CSA again! General secretary Peter Montopoli – the man charged with enacting the strategic plan – doesn’t have one. That’s a legacy of the Fred Nykamp affair, when a new CEO was drafted in and signed, but then ordered never to come to work. The amount of the out-of-court settlement was never released, but it looks like it came directly out of the “fire Dale Mitchell” budget.

    So Canada’s looking at a Gold Cup run under the same coach, when everyone else concerned knows a change must be made. If you’re wondering how exactly this is going to help Our Lads qualify for the 2014 World Cup, the line starts on Metcalf Street in Ottawa and stretches to Kelowna, B.C.!

    So – a new year’s wish:

    At this point, let’s turn our attention to Canada’s youth soccer clubs. There are big, influential ones, as well as hundreds of tiny little organizations big enough for house league, but not really all that helpful when it comes to actually developing top-flight talent. Overall, the clubs are disorganized on a national basis, still waiting patiently for clear vision and direction from Ottawa.

    That line stretches to Outer Mongolia!

    I’m starting to get the occasional e-mail from club officials, and an intriguing idea is bubbling up. What if the clubs – on their own dime and initiative – formed their own national organization?

    This could be hugely useful. Agree on a high standard of coaching, form regional leagues, and stage annual national championships at the higher age levels. Also, agree on clear priorities on chronically troublesome issues like player transfers and how and when a talented youngster can play above his age group.

    This idea could also lead to open revolt as far as clubs sending fees to the CSA goes. This is already starting to happen in isolated pockets. At the very least, the question “Can we help the game more by keeping that money and investing directly in coaches and facilities?” needs to be asked – coast to coast, starting now.

    That, eventually, would pretty much force the CSA to hire a proper CEO, who could raise money for them directly, without expecting suburban seven-year-olds to pay the freight. My biggest objection to the whole strategic plan is its dependence on raising fees. There has to be a more professional way to get professional players to the World Cup.

    Next up: new year’s wishes for the whole rest of the soccer-playing world.


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