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  • The shifting shape of reform



    As we head down the stretch, and the CSA reform finish line looms:

    As near as anyone’s been able to tell me, the provinces of Quebec and Alberta – between them – have enough votes to scuttle any Canadian Soccer Association reform package currently on the table.

    Each province’s voting weight is based on its percentage of registered soccer players. No single province – Ontario, for example – is allowed to cast more than a quarter of the votes.


    The three reform models (the original, the compromise, and the wait-a-year-and-compromise) will all be voted on at the CSA’s February 5 AGM. A two-thirds majority is needed. Quebec and Alberta, together, hold just over a third.

    Quebec, we know, opposes the original framework. This is the one that removes all presidential and territorial soccer association presidents from the CSA board. At this late date, there appears zero, nil, nada, bupkis, bye-bye chance Le Belle Province’s position here will change.

    But before everyone leaps up as one, points at Alberta, and says Alberta’s voting against; Alberta’s going to kill it; the whole mess in Alberta cost us governance reform; let me assure you that several other provinces are also wavering in their support of the original plan.

    All that happened, last spring, was that a simple majority of provinces voted to tentatively adopt the framework, keeping it alive for further study – and negotiation.

    At that point – and we’re technically not supposed to know this, because it’s a secret – Alberta And Quebec voted nay. Manitoba, I’ve since been told, abstained.

    Negotiation is, in fact, what followed. Just before the new year – again, in secret – the compromise governance model was born. This is very similar to the original. Both plans shrink the CSA board dramatically, and call for six regional reps instead of twelve provincial presidents. The main difference? In compromise mode, as many as three of those regional reps can also be association presidents.

    I think enough’s been written about serving two masters, constitutional conflict-of-interest and the bad old Good Old Boys’ network. If you’re a neutral soccer fan, there’s no question – I hope – that the first model is preferable.

    To get it, though, we essentially need every province except Quebec (who won’t) to approve. There seems very little chance Alberta will be represented by a reformer. Legal president Chris Billings is still under suspension from both the ASA and CSA. It will take a court-appointed miracle to get him a vote, and going to court is why the CSA suspended him in the first place.

    I’m still not 100-per-cent convinced the Quebec-Alberta firewall is going to kill the original deal. I’m certainly going to put some honest energy into trying to head that off. But if the total-reform deal does crash, it’s absolutely imperative that the compromise deal succeeds.

    Quebec and Alberta both liked this model just before Christmas. Ontario is adamantly opposed, but doesn’t have enough votes, on its own, to knock it out of the sky.

    And here’s where it gets dangerous.

    If the compromise fails, plan C is identical, but with a 2012 implementation date. And no one ever got anywhere predicting what will happen a year from now in the Canadian Soccer Association.

    One thing we don’t have to worry about is members of the CSA executive committee voting for, against, or at all. President Dominique Maestracci – whose involvement in the Alberta mess requires investigation, and will get it here if it doesn’t get it there – does not have a vote. He certainly has influence, though.

    Let’s say Quebec is happy with the compromise, and Ontario sticks to its anti-compromise guns.

    Again, Alberta becomes crucial.

    There are certainly CSA executives who don’t want this to pass. The reeking wildcard is how much influence those directors have over whomever actually ends up being seated for Alberta. And both parts of that are far from clear as I write this.

    The good news? The idea that pro-reform Ontario and anti-reform Alberta could actually team up to kill the compromise seems too ludicrous to even consider. At that point, many informed folks hope and believe Ontario will realize most is better than none, and sail the compromise plan safely into port.

    Except, of course, OSA president Ron Smale has told me – to my face and on-camera – that he won’t.

    So, once again, we actually don’t know anything.

    Deep breath.

    The compromise plan, dear fellow folks, wouldn’t be bad at all. Canada’s national soccer teams are still hugely funded by money from grassroots player registrations, and even I – however reluctantly – can understand how the provinces might want to keep an eye on that.

    I desperately want amateurs with differing agendas gone from the CSA board. But under the compromise, they’ll never have more than less-than-a-quarter of the voting say.

    What I can’t accept is any more delaying.

    It’s time to find out where the provinces stand, and why. I invite ALL my fellow soccer scribes – and fans – to grab the shovels and do some digging.

    Again, this information is officially secret – but so is just about everything else we’re talking about here.

    We know the word “secret” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. Let’s all put our hearts and efforts together for the next ten days, and prove it.


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