Home Canadian Soccer One small step for soccer: CSA adopts new governance system

One small step for soccer: CSA adopts new governance system

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Saturday, Canadian Soccer Association delegates followed the wishes of soccer fans in this country, and agreed to turf the status quo.

At its meeting in Ottawa, delegates voted to begin the process for a new governance structure for the CSA. The new system is to be phased in beginning in 2012, and reduces the number of members on the board from 20 to 13.

The new system ensures that the CSA president and vice-president will be elected, and that six directors — one each from BC/YT, AB/NT, MB/SK, ON, QC, NS/NB/PE/NL — will be elected. By 2015, no director on the CSA board can also sit on a provincial soccer body at the same time, creating the distinction between the CSA and the provincial bodies that supporters have been demanding for years.

As well, the board of directors will include one current or retired player, one person involved in pro soccer and a minimum number of three directors must be women.

Canadian soccer fans followed the process via Twitter. They were glued to the tweets of former national-team players Kara Lang and Jason DeVos, who gave blow-by-blow updates from the meeting.

“Great day for soccer in Canada — this is only the beginning,” tweeted Lang.

In fact, both tweeted that other delegates has asked them to stop tweeting — which they refused to do, arguing that the public deserved to know which provincial representative was voting what way.

Lang was refused permission to read a letter from the women’s team — because it wasn’t an item on the agenda that could be voted on.

The letter, though, was published on the CBC’s website minutes after the board agreed that it couldn’t be heard at the meeting. The text:

“Hello everyone and thank you for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the players.

“The players of our national women’s team whole-heartedly support the change in governance that has been proposed. We feel that it is an important, and necessary, step for the growth of soccer in Canada.

Kara Lang in 2005
“Voting in favour of reform would mean that there would be a greater level of soccer and business expertise at the disposal of this association. It would add a level of experience that is currently not there. It would allow for new ideas and new voices to influence Canadian soccer.

“It is also important to us that a change in governance will see more women in the board. While a minimum of three women on the board is far from perfect, it is a start, and one that the players fully endorse.

“Most importantly is that the CSA does not continue as is and accepts the status quo. It is simply not good enough. If soccer in this country is going to take the next step, then the CSA needs to change. Carolina Morace has brought the women’s program to a whole new level, but unless the Association starts making changes that allow it to grow and progress, the team won’t ever be able to reach its full potential and achieve the goals that they have set for the program.

“You have the power to stop the inertia of this Association that is stifling the growth of soccer in this country. It’s time that you all recognized the opportunity that is right in front of you. The women’s program is the most successful program in Canada, and has the potential to change the face of soccer in this country. We’ve heard many times that the CSA supports the women’s game, but actions speak louder than words. So far the actions of the Association have proven otherwise.

“If you truly believe in this team, then invest in them and give them the resources they need to succeed. You have what could potentially be one of the best teams in the world – just imagine what could happen if they came home with a World Cup Championship or an Olympic medal. Imagine what it could do for soccer in this country.

“Lastly, I would like to address the situation with the women’s national team coach, Carolina Morace.

“The players are aware of her decision to resign after the World Cup, and want to express that they are behind her 100 per cent. This is not an acceptable outcome, and the players would like to urge the CSA to act quickly to resolve this situation.

“Carolina has brought a new mindset to the women’s team, and the players feel she is the key to achieving a medal in the World Cup and beyond. By allowing her to leave, the CSA would be doing a grave disservice to the team and to soccer in Canada.

“For those of you who think that the issue of Carolina’s resignation is separate from that of governance reform — you are sadly mistaken.

“Carolina Morace is the best thing that has ever happened to the women’s program, and if not for the current governance structure, she would be able to do her job to the best of her ability.

“The Canadian national women’s team feels that it is in the best interests of the game in Canada to do whatever it takes to ensure she remains a part of the program.”

A leaked e-mail revealing Morace’s plan to quit came one day before the CSA meeting. This looked to be a calculated move – an excellent chess play — to try and push CSA issues into the mainstream media, a difficult task to do when the meeting occurs only a day away from the Super Bowl. After all, the media doesn’t really cover Hockey Canada’s general meetings, so why the CSA?

The CSA itself won’t comment on the Morace situation until after she meets with president Dominic Maestracci. But, there is every indication that the two sides have the chance to resolve their differences. Lang’s open letter made it clear that this is a move that could be reversed.

Save for a few articles about Alberta Soccer Association reform in the Edmonton Journal, the traditional media has stayed away from CSA reform. This is not surprising; when the CSA hasn’t been covered at all by the big papers and sports networks, why would there be any impetus to do it now? Look, outside of the soccer community — which tends to be particularly insular in Canada, separating itself from the rest of the sports out there — this looks to be a situation of a progressive movement looking to usurp the old-man establishment… for a department that’s total annual budget that is less than the money Edmonton recently received for an upgrade to its River Valley Park system.

And this is what needs to be addressed in the new governance system; as the provincial bosses get moved out, before any tactical changes can be made to the way soccer is developed in Canada, the organization needs to be vetted. We need people on the CSA who aren’t just soccer people, but understand economics. They need to figure out how to monetize the game. Depending on the rumours out there — from accusations money being shifted away from the women’s program to general CSA revenue, to allegations that player did not receive CONCACAF prize money — there is one constant; if any or all or true, we are talking about less money than a lot of people have in their RRSP savings or have owing on their mortgages. We aren’t talking big dollars here. The fact that those dollars can create such an issue is a sign of just how badly the CSA needs and economic revamp. And that is what is missing from the debate. We need Lang, DeVos and the new board to tell Canadian players and taxpayers…

WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR WHAT?

You can change to governance system, but you can’t change the most pressing issue at all; that when a new board sits down, no matter how well-intentioned, it still needs to find a way to implement change AND balance the books. In politics, how many times have we seen a new leader swept in, only to be overwhelmed by the financial constraints once he or she is in the big chair? Right now, Canadian soccer leaders and supporters have voted to change the leadership over what is a very small kingdom. The issue now is how to expand those borders. Because, if the size of the program remains the same — in five years from now, we’ll be saying meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

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