Monday, February 11, 2008

The new kids on the block

Ben Knight has a great post on his blog today about the creation of a Canadian Soccer Federation as perhaps the first step in the drastic overhaul or replacement of the troubled Canadian Soccer Association. I've written pretty extensively on the problems affecting the CSA before, so there's no real point in rehashing that.

As Knight points out, probably the major issue at the root of these troublesome symptoms is the unnecessarily factionalized nature of the decision-makers, particularly on a board where provincial representatives looking out for their own organizations' interests make decisions affecting Canada at a national level. It's as ludicrous as those "Team Canada" missions where the premiers conduct international talks: you can't have provincial officials making decisions that affect an entire country, as they will always be looking after their own constituencies before the good of the entire populace.

Knight also points out that the CSA can't really take too much credit for the various successes Canadian soccer has enjoyed recently: they didn't have much to do with BMO Field or Toronto FC, they mismanaged the wildly successful U-20 World Cup and lost millions despite setting attendance records, and they switched the organizational structure of the men's national team immediately after their Gold Cup success. Thus, any counterpoints they raise about good things they've done need to be looked at through a skeptical lens.

I'm not one to condemn people unilaterally for past mistakes: if the CSA is willing to admit they've screwed up, drastically overhaul their structure and move on to what's best for the national game instead of what's best for their members, I don't mind if they keep the reins of Canadian soccer. Otherwise though, the government needs to wake up to the mismanagement under this regime, kick it out and allow some more capable organization to step into their place. Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps have already partially stepped into the void with their own talks about growing the game and improving player development: this new CSF sounds like a potential candidate for other roles of the CSA.

Most importantly, the function of managing the national team system needs to be sharply separated from the regulation of the amateur game, and incompetent amateur officials concerned with the preservation of their own fiefdoms should be kept away from the national program with as long a stick as possible. Hopefully, the formation of the CSF will draw more attention to the plight of the CSA and will raise national awareness of the aforementioned issues. Whether this results in the dissolution of the CSA or merely its drastic retooling, this is a positive first step.

Links of the Day:
- Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail has one of the best sports features I've read in a long time, looking back at the lessons of the tragic Swift Current bus crash. A great piece of writing overall, and especially relevant given the Bathurst tragedy.
- Sticking with the Globe for the moment, James Mirtle has a nice piece up on the introduction of CIS women's hockey at UQAM.
- Neate Sager on the Jays' decision to offer tickets to Boston and Detroit fans before local ones. I tend to agree with the guys from All Your Base Are Belong To Rios (greatest blog title ever, by the way) on this one: I don't mind them selling tickets that wouldn't normally be sold to fans hungry for the game, but the problem is when these fans get greater privileges than your own supporters.
- Neate has another post over at The CIS Blog (great resource for university sport stuff, by the way) on more statistical incompetence by the OUA (see my volleyball post from last weekend for another example).
- Greg Layson of the Guelph Mercury talks about how exactly Ontario University Athletics screwed up the score (which could be important) on his Big Man on Campus blog. It would be nice if this was a one-off, but my experience with OUA statistics indicates it isn't. Greg has more in a follow-up post, and should have a story on this in Wednesday's Mercury. It's nice that someone with a slightly bigger platform is taking the league to task on getting these things right, as it needs to be done: as James Mirtle wrote in the Globe a little while ago, we don't even know if Andrew Spagrud's going to break the CIS basketball scoring record, as no one knows what it is. That's a bit of a problem for a league's credibility.
- Speaking of campus stuff, Mike has a nice post up on everything from Richard Zednik to Gaels' hockey. A pretty amazing choke-job by Toronto leaves Queen's with a nice first-round bye, even after it looked like they'd blown the division with the Ryerson loss.
- And one final one: a tongue-in-cheek humour piece I put up on my Journal blog about possible reasons the Giants beat the Patriots last Sunday.

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