The arbitrator rules: CSL can play in 2013, loses national sanction in 2014 By Steven Sandor Posted on April 24, 2013 2 0 863 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The arbitrator’s ruling is in: And it’s a mixed bag. On Tuesday night, the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada issued its ruling in the battle between the embattled Canadian Soccer League and the Canadian Soccer Association. It found that that the CSA has the right to “de-sanction” the CSL. However, it ruled that the CSA’s decision to de-sanction the semipro circuit can’t go into effect until February of 2014 — as the league needs time to adjust to the new reality of the Canadian soccer landscape. So, in simple terms, the CSL — which boasts 12 member semipro teams, all based in Ontario — is sanctioned to play out its 2013 season, then will lose the national sanction in early 2014. “The Canadian Soccer Association decision to de-sanction the CSL was made in light of the endorsed recommendation provided by the Division II viability study conducted by James Easton and the Rethink Management Group to move towards a model of a regional semi-professional development-focused league,” said CSA president Victor Montagliani in a release. “We remain committed to this vision moving forward.” The CSA has said it will make no other comment on the ruling. The CSL said it will spend looking at options. Seeking a regional sanction under the Ontario Soccer Association is one, but league spokesman Stan Adamson said the CSL has some other avenues to explore. It will take the time to organize, and explore which options would be palatable under FIFA rules and regulations. “We don’t want to be on our own,” said Adamson. “We want to do the right thing. But the CSA has to help us. It is in their charter to protect their members.” In February of 2013, the CSA officially advised the CSL that the league would no longer be sanctioned. The reason? That the CSA had accepted the findings of the Easton Report, which recommended that Div-3 pro soccer in Canada be carried out in the form of regional semipro leagues, which focus on youth talent. Because of that, the CSL didn’t fit into the CSA mandate. In Canada, MLS is recognized as Division-1, NASL as Division-2. But the CSL took the decision to the SDRCC, claiming that the February decision gave it very little time to adjust ahead of its 2013 season, which is slated to kick off in May. Of course, the CSA’s Easton-Report claims and the subsequent SDRCC decision avoid the elephant in the room, which is the fact that a 2009 CSL match was indicated to be part of a global match-fixing scheme orchestrated by a Croatian ring. A German court heard that a match which saw the Trois-Rivieres Attak defeat Toronto Croatia was fixed. CSL officials have met with Interpol and admitted that they know $180 million is gambled on the league on a yearly basis. According to the minutes of the SDRCC: “Mr. Montagliani was adamant that the decision of the CSA Board to no longer sanction the CSL had nothing to do with any match fixing allegations against the CSL, and everything to do with the adoption of the Easton and PSC recommendations to the Board.” So, in fact, the CSA tried to turn down the heat when it came to match-fixing allegations and made the Easton Report its sole focus. In the SDRCC minutes (CLICK HERE for the report), CSL president Vincent Ursini admitted he’d read the Easton Report in 2012 and agreed with its findings. He was also told in late January of 2013 to begin talks with the Ontario Soccer Association about a regional sanction, but there was no further discussions between OSA and CSL. According to the arbitrator Hugh L. Fraser: “At the end of the hearing, the evidence from the CSL witnesses, Mr. Ursini and Mr. (CSL administrator Pino) Jazbec confirmed that they acknowledged somewhat begrudgingly, that the CSA had the power to sanction and refuse sanction to the CSL. The main issue remaining appeared to be the CSL angst over the manner in which the desanctioning was communicated to them and the manner in which it was ultimately imposed.” And, the decision. Arbitrator Fraser had concerns that the CSA told the CSL on Jan. 28 that it should seek out the OSA for a regional sanction, and then withdrew the sanction a half-month later. “In light of the correspondence that I have just referred to, the CSA letter of February 13, 2013, written just sixteen days after the parties appeared to have come to an understanding, seems somewhat heavy handed. The letter was sent six weeks prior to the commencement of the CSL 2013 season. In his testimony, Mr. Montagliani stated that the CSL had absolutely no involvement in the CSA’s decision to de?sanction and the CSA could have ‘phased in’ the decision to desanction the CSL but chose not to do so. “It appears to the panel that there was no need for urgency in implementing the decision to desanction the CSL. The Ontario Soccer Association did not have a viable league in place. If it was contemplated as of January 28, 2013, that further meetings would be required to ensure that the CSL would be able to meet the criteria required for operation under the OSA sanction it seems highly unlikely if not impossible for all of that to have been accomplished prior to the CSA Board of Directors’ meeting in early February, 2013. “By desanctioning the CSL with immediate effect, the CSA by its own admission made the CSL a ‘Rogue League’ in that it would not be able to play matches against other sanctioned teams, and it would not be allowed to use sanctioned referees. The CSA was never able to satisfactorily explain to the Tribunal why the immediate de?sanctioning of the CSL was in the best interests of the sport of soccer in Canada. “In conclusion, I find that the CSA did have the authority in accordance with their By?laws to withdraw the sanction previously given by them to the CSL. I find also that in so doing, and in making the decision to desanction effective as of February 13, 2013, the CSA did not provide the CSL with a reasonable opportunity to apply for and receive sanction from the OSA so that they could continue to operate as a sanctioned league in 2013. “If as was submitted by the CSA, the decision to desanction the CSL was made for the sole reason that it was consistent with a recommendation made in the Easton report for the establishment of a semi-professional league, there seems to be no reason why the implementation of this recommendation could not be phased in or delayed for a year. “The CSL was and still is a member in good standing of the CSA. The CSA has a duty to protect the interests of all of its members, particularly where such interest does not conflict with the best interests of the sport. Fairness and natural justice dictate that the CSL be given a reasonable opportunity to seek acceptance into membership with the OSA in order to meet any criteria established by the OSA to operate under their umbrella. I find that a period of one year would provide such reasonable opportunity. “I direct therefore that the Canadian Soccer Association decision to no longer sanction the Canadian Soccer League be made effective February 13, 2014, rather than February 13, 2013.” The CSL’s first division is slated to begin in May with just 12 teams — and glamour sides such as the TFC and Montreal Impact Academies have packed up and left.