Canadian Soccer’s $50 Million Question…

Six years ago plus this came pouring out of my keyboard… six years… and people wonder why I wear a hard hat at my desk some days…

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

There has been a lot of talk recently about budgets, in particular the budget of the Canadian Soccer Association, which is estimated at about $13 million with about five of that going to our national team programs. The figures are estimated because in this country trying to pry the true budgets out of clubs, districts, provincial associations and not just the national governing body is akin to stealing the crown jewels – not easily done.

Even estimating based on what is published makes the waters murky – the Ontario Soccer Association last published budget (kudos to the OSA for doing so) puts their annual budget at about $9 million or about $25 for every registered player in the province. Manitoba’s published budget meanwhile comes in at just over a million or, wait for it, $65 per registered player.The discrepancy, a topic for a whole other discussion, makes it difficult to extrapolate numbers for the provinces which do not publish their figures – but making an educated guess the budget totals for the national and provincial associations would probably in total come in at around $40 million.

Next up come the district associations and clubs. Again hard to estimate given so few allow open access to their budgets but a number do and so a conservative estimate based on the district numbers known or are published and the clubs that have a $500,000 plus annual budget (again known or published) a good round number would be $10 million.

So to sum up, that’s $50 million budgeted for the game in Canada – annually for let’s say the last decade – or a half BILLION dollars.

Obviously that is a lot of money. What have we gotten for our half billion? Well let’s start small and work our way up. A world class coaching education system for our grassroot coaches where all things begin and the greatest influence on the development of a player is to be found? Um, no.

Top class coaches working diligently with clubs across the country to improve standards of play and development? Er, no.

Okay then hundreds of great facilities scattered about so at least our players can play on a decent surface, use a facility… other than a bush when nature calls and have a post game shower? Nope.

A charter or standard published by our national governing body that point out to the clubs best practices, coaching and playing standards and the expectations from our national team coaches? Nada.

Five or six soccer specific showcase stadiums with seating for 12 to 20,000 fans? Zip.

A national team program that is the envy of the western world? Okay the western hemisphere? How about our FIFA region? North America? North of the 401 and west of Jane but east of Windsor? No, not likely, surely you jest, not in this lifetime, in that order.

We have though gotten pirates of the caribbean online blackjack one world class entity for our money something that seems so natural to this country that we often overlook it and don’t often recognize it until it is way too late – a world class bureaucratic FC up.

At times it seems we have almost as many administrators in this country as we do players and the further up stream you travel the worse it gets.

The vast majority of clubs, thanks to the thousands of man hours put in by volunteers survive with one or even no paid help with even the largest clubs usually only having two full time positions. The districts two to three people. Then it gets crazy. Check online sometime to see how many staff are listed with your provincial association – I found one with 30 – if you can do better (or worse as it were) let me know.

Absolute lunacy. The provincial associations are basically in place to govern the districts, run coaching education and the provincial teams programs. The district associations meanwhile basically govern the clubs and handle registration for the provincial body and by extension the national association. Can you say redundant?

I knew you could.

Although it will likely never happen the process in this country needs to be streamlined. The middlemen – the provincial associations – need to be eliminated. But who would do all the work they do now you ask? The national and regional associations – who should be doing it in the first place.

The grand plan:

Amalgamate the districts into regions based on population of 50,000. This would mean, give or take, two districts in BC, two in Alberta, two serving Saskatchewan and Manitoba, seven in Ontario, three in Quebec and one in the Maritimes.

There are currently districts that handle the registration and governance of clubs with 50,000 members and they do it well – in this day and age there is no administrative need for more than this.

Players would register directly with the CSA through their region since there would no longer be a provincial body. It’s the same paperwork but instead of sending to your provincial headquarters you send it to Ottawa.

That was easy.

Player development belongs with the clubs – leave it there. Turn existing district programs into regional identification programs leading directly to national training centers. Establish a national training center in each of the regions so players across the country are identified directly by national team personnel on the recommendation of regional and more importantly club coaches.

The club coaches would be able to perform this task better because as part their mandate regional coaches hired and trained (and answering directly to) by our national technical director would convey to club coaches on a regular basis just what the expectations and standards for the development of competitive players at each stage would be.

One final change allow every member of the CSA to vote directly for the people running the ship – one less thing for the middlemen.

I’m willing to bet that this and a lot more can be accomplished on $50 million a year.