Canada Soccer On Verge Of Bankruptcy, Confirms DeVos
It was first reported this morning by TSN reporter Rick Westhead that Canada Soccer may be in a worse financial situation than first predicted.
It got to a point where both the men’s and women’s teams may not be able to play an international window in September as the organization might contemplate filing for bankruptcy protection.
This was confirmed in an interview with TSN as both teams prepare to play, with the men preparing for the Gold Cup and the women getting ready for the Women’s World Cup.
“We are in a real struggle. It’s not imminent, but we need to explore what bankruptcy entails and how it might affect our organization,” said deVos, who was appointed to his new position back in April.
“We don’t have enough revenue coming in for the programs that need to be run, and that includes everything from grassroots coach education and referee development to youth national teams and our senior men’s and women’s teams.”
“…[bankruptcy] has been discussed, but not in the sense of this is a strategy or this is something that we’re looking at. It’s been discussed more from my own perspective to learn about it. It is absolutely the last option that I want to consider or even think about. But I would be remiss if I didn’t do my due diligence on this.”
It’s been a financial crisis at Canada Soccer in the last few months.
Canada received five million through public funding and the Canadian government spent four last year.
The cash reserves dropped to 2.4 million at the end of 2022 according to its financial statements – this was down from 7.1 million the year before.
Back in May, Canada Sports Minister Pascal St Onge requested a financial audit which will cover March 2017 to March 2023, citing a lack of financial transparency.
For over a year, both the men’s and women’s teams have been negotiating a new labour agreement, and whilethose talks have progressed no agreements are in place just yet.
“I still think of myself as a player, and I want the national teams to know that I’m on their side,” deVos said. “I need for them to understand we only have so much money and there’s only so much we can give them. I don’t want to have to take money from programming resources to provide more compensation. I know the players understand that, but they also want what they feel they deserve.”
Canada Soccer has been in talks with Canada Soccer Business to try and renegotiate the CSB deal which proved controversial for its media and sponsorship agreements.
That deal, which has the option to be extended another ten years to 2037 if triggered, pays Canada Soccer an annual fee of 3-4 million dollars.
In exchange for that amount of money, a private company with ties to Canadian Premier League club owners gets revenue from the national team’s media rights and sponsorships.
The deal came under intense scrutiny during a series of meetings with the Heritage Committee this year in Ottawa.
Members of Parliament continued to press Canada Soccer as to why the organization gave away valuable rights for twenty years, especially after Canada agreed to join the US and Mexico in a joint bid for the Men’s World Cup in 2026.
The deal was first negotiated back in 2017 when many media reported that the USA and Mexico were the favorites to secure the World Cup with a rival bid from Morocco.
Winning the bid to host the World Cup will be the biggest one yet with 104 matches, which jumps from 64 in the 2022 Qatar World Cup. This has aided in increasing the value of Canada Soccer media and sponsorship rights.
Even with public assurances from Canada Soccer that CSB had agreed to amend the deal, it is still unclear if an offer to modernize it has been presented.
“CSB is open to amending its deal with Canada Soccer,” CSB spokeswoman Laura Armstrong wrote in an email to TSN. “Those conversations are ongoing. For context, while CSB has not specifically used the term ‘modernizing’ when discussing changes to the deal in the past, as federation officials did when they testified, CEO Mark Noonan has previously said on the record that CSB is open to making amendments to the agreement.”
“I’ve told CSB that we are in this together,” DeVos said. “I know how important it is to have professional leagues for men and women in this country, but that cannot come at the expense of our men’s and women’s national teams. Our youth boys’ and girls’ national teams need to develop the best players in Canada who go on and succeed at the international level because that success is going to drive the game forward.”
The impact was shown on June 19th a day after Canada lost to the US in the Concacaf Nations League Final in Las Vegas. Jonathan David, Jonathan Osorio, and Richie Lareya were seen on an Air Canada Rouge flight in economy class.
“In terms of them flying business class, it’s transatlantic flights only,” DeVos said. “We would love to be able to fly all of our players in business class on every flight, but we don’t have the resources to do that. It’s not that we’re saying, ‘You don’t deserve it, or you don’t need it.’ – we can’t afford it.”
Due to the federation’s lack of resources and most teams already having matches booked Canada may not play any games in two of the next three international windows.
DeVos confirmed the team missed out a chance to play Saudi Arabia and Korea in September. He was just days into his new job when an agent approached him to broker the deal.
In the deal, the team was supposed to play Korea in England and Saudi Arabia in Austria during the September window.
Saudi Arabia offered Canada $500,000 which would lower the cost of playing a window to less than $200,000. Beyond the fact of money, it would have been an amazing opportunity to play some credible competition.
Also in terms of travel, it would have been easier for the Canadian players based in Europe. DeVos told the agent he couldn’t immediately commit because he needed to confirm the financial consequences of playing the games.
He was informed by Canada Soccer that if he agreed to a deal for the men he would have to do the same for the women who are actually scheduled to face Jamaica in September in an Olympic qualifier.
To play two games and run a camp in a window can cost between $500,000 and $1,000,000 dollars per team, and there is a concern having both teams play could drain their financial resources.
As DeVos discussed the offer with his colleagues, the agent was able to secure a deal with Mexico.
“The challenge is there isn’t enough budget to be able to make September and October happen at this moment,” DeVos said. “What we need is to play against tier-one opponents in games that move the needle. At this point, trying to find games against top teams in September and October is challenging.”
According to FIFA’s match calendar, national teams are eligible to play two games in three windows Sept 4-12th, Oct 9-17, and Nov 13-21.
He confirmed the men’s team will play in the November window when the teams are scheduled to qualify for Copa America, but it is still possible the federation crisis could affect plans for training camps.
Julian De Guzman, who is now a soccer analyst at TSN and a former national team player, says the timing is horrible with the World Cup now just three years away.
“We are losing out on games that our team needs,” de Guzman said. “A number of national team players have sensed this kind of situation was around the corner. A lot of the issues we have heard about with Canada Soccer, I’m not sure they are repairable because the foundation of this federation has been so poor for so many years and the trust between players and the federation has been so broken.”
“From a fan’s standpoint, you see what you see on the field. We have so much talent in Canada with both national teams and they have done a great job to mask what has happened within the federation. But the truth is that Canada Soccer does not have the resources to match the kind of off-field work that is being put in by Mexico and the U.S. That’s the uncomfortable truth.”
Two different match agents who are paid to arrange games between national teams told TSN in an interview even with Canada Soccer poised to secure a modest match fee from a lower-ranked country.
Canada would most likely be required to pay more than $5 million to play against a top European country.
One of the agents said Canada could still potentially schedule games in the US against Oman and Uzbekistan in September.
“I think people in football around the world see Canada is doing so much better,” said Alireza Nikoomanesh, a match agent based in Toronto who has helped arrange matches for men’s national teams from countries including Jordan, Zambia, Iran, and Oman.
“Canada may not have won their three games at the World Cup, but I think people recognize they did very well, considering they were playing in a group with Croatia and Morocco, who both advanced to the semifinals… there are a number of national teams that will pay to play Canada now.”
Meanwhile, the women are scheduled to face Nigeria in their World Cup opener on July 20th in Melbourne.
DeVos confirmed the tournament would not be compromised, but mentioned the team may not be able to schedule a friendly in September.
FIFA’s match calendar confirms there are windows for the women to play two games with September 18-26, October 23-31, and November 27th-December 5th.
John Herdman spoke about the unfortunate situation after the loss against the US citing a lack of training days as compared to Mexico, the US, and Panama who had a full camp with a friendly.
“We brought a World Cup to our country and we’re not serious about winning it,” Herdman said. “We’ve got to get real, and quick… It’s not a secret the organization has been suffering financially. Even through the World Cup qualification and your head coach is raising money to make sure we’ve got charter flights [and] security on those charter flights. We’ve got the best generation of players we’ve had and there’s more coming. You can see it… We’ve got to figure this out financially.”
DeVos agrees with the head coach 100% and sees where he is coming from.
“John and I are very much aligned here,” deVos said. “You saw in World Cup qualifying what the men did. They did that because of John’s leadership, bringing that whole group together. And we had the same preparation time as all the other teams. And so, when John says last Sunday that the lack of preparation hurts, it absolutely does.
“We need to do more as a nation to try and help our players succeed on the international level because if we do that, the game is gonna go places it’s never been before in this country. We don’t want to look back ten years down the road saying, ‘What if we did this, what if we did that?’ We’ve got to fight for this today.”
Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques