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Players Association Calls For Massive Change Ahead Of Presidential Election

By on May 3, 2023 0 966 Views

Just mere days before an election to determine the new Canada Soccer President who will finish Nick Bontis’s term, players sent a letter to the provincial soccer federations presidents asking for change.

“For far too long, our calls for change have been met with inaction,” the women’s and men’s national soccer teams players’ associations wrote in a letter sent Tuesday morning. The letter was subsequently obtained by TSN. 

“For far too long, we have been engaging with leadership that has not been prepared to make the changes that are needed, for the benefit of the current and future players and staff and the future of soccer in Canada. We have grown increasingly concerned that the Canada Soccer decision makers have not acted in the best interests of the sport of soccer in Canada,” read the statement.

Canada Soccer Nick Bontis
Former CSA President Nick Bontis resigned earlier this year. (Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl / Canada Soccer)

The players stated that over a third of the board had been there since 2018.

“During this five-year period, decisions have been made by Canada Soccer that have not only negatively impacted the national team programs but inhibited the growth potential of soccer in Canada… we call on you, as the presidents of the provincial soccer federations, to use your votes at the annual meeting to elect new voices to Canada Soccer’s leadership. From President to board members to key executive employees, we need new voices to drive fundamental change in the organization.”

The members are scheduled to vote next Saturday during its annual meeting in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Charmaine Crooks, who is currently the interim president and has been on the Canada Soccer board since 2013, will run against Rob Newman, who was a member from 2002-2012 and is now the President of BC Soccer.

In 2012, Newman ran against Victor Montagliani and lost. Montagliani was president until 2017.

The rules for the vote are complicated in regard to determining a new president: Canada Soccer by-laws state there are 85 votes and that the winner is decided by the majority.

The federations of Ontario and Quebec each have ten votes since they are the two biggest provinces by participation levels. Alberta and British Columbia have eight.

The CPL and the rest of Canada’s pro teams have 21, which will for sure make for a complex election. Canada’s three MLS teams each have two votes while the CPL and its eight teams have 15 thanks to a recent change in the by-laws. That means the CPL could swing the election.

Canada Diana Matheson
Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl / Canada Soccer

Canada Soccer will also decide on Saturday whether to sanction Diana Matheson’s new women’s domestic league which has been called Project 8. If approved, it’s unclear whether the league will get votes as well.

In that case, the future of Canada Soccer could come down to Matheson, and when she was asked to comment she declined to answer.

Soccer New Brunswick president Kevin Topolinski was asked about the Project 8 approval and said he expects a debate when talking about the project.

“That’s a big question and one I expect will receive lots of debate this weekend,” said Topolniski.

On Tuesday, Pascal St Onge said that the government is considering a financial audit.

Amy Walsh, a former player on the women’s national team, also commented on the current situation.

“There’s been no leadership at Canada Soccer, it’s been shameful,” she said. “The people at the top of Canada Soccer have not just let the national teams down, they’ve let the Canadian population down…between the fiscal irregularities, the lack of transparency, and Canada Soccer’s leadership not answering to anyone and not dealing with issues of abuse… I think they’ve failed miserably.”

Crooks and Newman have both been campaigning. On April 27 they were on a Zoom call and were given five minutes to give their platform before a 30-minute question and answer period.

The major difference between Crooks and Newman came down to the CSB deal that Steve Reed signed which pays a guaranteed fee to Canada Soccer for broadcasting rights and corporate sponsorships.

According to a person on the call, Newman said the CSB deal needs to be voided and renegotiated.

“There are people who just want change after all the problems they have seen within Canada Soccer’s leadership and they don’t care who it is that replaces the incumbents. They hear Charmaine talk about building bridges and wonder why she kept so quiet when the CSB deal was signed and more recently when the women’s national team funding was cut so badly. But there’s another group that says, ‘Yes, there are problems with the CSB deal, but that was something that Steve Reed signed and while we have to clean things up, we don’t want to risk chaos by bringing in outsiders like Rob.’”

An interesting story is that Montagliani reached out to them to advocate for Crooks, saying otherwise it could have a negative fallout.

Crooks is scheduled to testify before the Heritage Committee on Thursday.

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