July 14, 2024
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Canada Soccer Kevin Blue

An Introductory Chat With Canada Soccer’s New CEO, Kevin Blue

By on March 19, 2024 0 1112 Views

It is always a show of good faith for an incoming CEO to welcome media in the wake of their first week on the job. Even moreso when you step into the hot-seat of a national soccer association that is in dire need of direction with a World Cup looming.

Yet that is exactly what happened on Monday afternoon, as newly appointed Canada Soccer CEO and General Secretary Kevin Blue invited well over a dozen media members to discuss all the burning questions that both journalists and fans have been longing to ask for the last few years.

Here For More Than Just Balancing Books

Upon his original appointment, there was some shockwaves amongst the Canadian soccer-sphere that a former Golf Canada and college sport executive was the one chosen to lead the fractured and drama-filled organization that was Canada Soccer. A week into his official position, however, and his approach to communicating his actions and backing them in swift succession have left a positive wave on many of his doubters despite his short time in charge. Actions like his candid statement on the search for a permanent men’s coach, and the two friendlies arranged against the Netherlands and Mexico for later this year.

“I think what you can all expect from me is a direct, steady, and professional approach,” said Blue at the end of his opening remarks. It was a statement that already held merit given his previous actions, and was a welcome sentiment after years of political and circular answers. So, it was no surprise that he was immediately put into the firing line of questions during the next half-hour.

Some may crumble coming under such direct fire, but Blue understood what he was signing up for – both in the conference, and with his position.

“I think there is this unique combination of challenge and opportunity,” described Blue when asked his reasoning to step into his contentious position as CEO and General Secretary. “I think it’s a critical time for the sport. Part of the reason that there is a lot of discussion around the challenges is because of opportunities that are forthcoming and need to be taken advantage of for the sport to, frankly, continue is expansion and growth in our country.”

While it was widely speculated that Blue was brought in more for his ability to stabilize Canada Soccer’s burdening financials than anything else, his aims are well beyond just balancing the books. It seems like he genuinely wants to get this association where it needs to be ahead of the pivotal time for Canadian soccer that is the 2026 FIFA World Cup. He recognizes that he will need other, more informed people to help him on the sporting side.

“The technical aspects of the sport are something that I will increasingly be educated about by people who I surround myself with, who are the experts,” remarked Blue on the matter. “I view my responsibility as the leader of the organization to make sure that I’m bringing that expertise on board to help me understand it, but the [technical] expertise are gonna be the people that are making the expert decisions on the football.”

It is a practical admittance to acknowledge that you need experts around you to help you when you are in a new field, but one that is often overlooked. Blue will look to ensure that his tenure is marked by both financial and sporting successes, rather than at the cost of one another.

Still To Soon For Answers on The “Big” Questions

It should have been a surprise to no one that as soon as the media had the mic, a large chunk of the questions would be directed to the elephant in the room for Canada Soccer: the CSB deal and its ramifications on the National Teams. Just last month saw the Women’s national team, represented by the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association, open up lawsuit charges against members of the 2018 Board of Directors.

And while Blue was open to the questions surrounding the matter, his answers reflected the blunt reality of the situation: it was still too soon for any concrete plans. It is understandable given that, once again, he is still only a week into his tenure, but that did not stop him for giving assurances that those issues are very much on his radar.

“We obviously want to make sure that we move forward with the players, and that we are able to come to the right type of labour agreement [with them],” explained Blue when asked about the biggest issues in the CSA. “There’s obviously some financial fixing and refinement of the financial model that needs to occur.”

“That is tied into what I believe is a broader opportunity, which is to build, frankly, a more effective commercial and philanthropic structure for the entire sport in the country.”

When pressed how such a structure can come to Canada Soccer, Blue pointed to his previous experiences in college sports and at Golf Canada as examples of how he was able to ‘build the right type of fundraising apparatus’. Blue also noted that he was looking forward to meeting with CSB heads Mark Noonan and Scott Mitchell on how they can see some ‘improvement in the overall circumstances [of the CSB deal]’ together.

Meanwhile, surrounding the second-most anticipated question of who will be the next Men’s National Team Head Coach post, it was more of the same from Blue: it was simply much too soon to get any real headway on what might be on the horizon.

“I’ve commented previously on the process around the Men’s National Team situation,” replied Blue to questions surrounding the search for a new Head Coach. “I don’t have specifics to offer at this time, either on timeline or on compensation. But when I do, certaintly you all will hear it directly from me”.

While one can forgive the lack of substance behind these answers given his short stint so far, Blue will not be afforded that much more time given the timeliness of competitions like the Olympics and Copa America this summer, and, of course, the World Cup in two years. He will soon be needing more than just appeasing platitudes to calm the masses that await clarity and action.

Aim To Rebuild What Was Lost

The fractures between Canada Soccer and its constituents has been a saga that has transpired over longer than just the last few years. One could say that the 2021 Women’s Olympic Gold Medal and the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification for the Men were just papering over the cracks that were there.

Feelings of distrust and disdain towards the federation from fans and players alike has been well-documented across social media accounts and outlets aplenty. That is why Kevin Blue recognizes that the federation need to start again, so as to rebuild that connection that has been lost to the people in this country.

“There’s been some things that have happened over a period of time that haven’t reflected positively on the organization,” admitted Blue to media on Zoom. “We have a lot of work to do to rebuild that trust, frankly. That’s just what it is and that’s a reality, and I accept that responsibility. Part of what I hope to do is show folks that I’m willing to listen, that I’m willing to connect, that I’m willing to learn, that I’m willing to be straightforward with people.”

It is a daunting task that cannot be done overnight. It will require a extreme amount of work to turn the growing cynicism towards the organization to one of hope and pride, which we only saw briefly in those aforementioned times of celebration. It is something that Blue looks more than ready to face, and it begins with being open and transparent to the people outside.

“We do have to rebuild [that] trust,” added Blue. “And part of that involved doing things like we’re doing today, like talking to you all and explaining things that are going on as in this case with all organizations.”

“There is an importance of leadership in being proficient and skillful and proactive at communicating, and I hope to be able to walk that talk as we go forward.”

It is still too early to tell whether Blue will be able to act good on his promises, but the importance he has put on being transparent and open to both media and fans alike may provide some hope that he can bridge that gap once more before the World is at our doorstep.

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