Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Breaking CSA news

The Canadian Soccer Association announced today that Peter Montopoli will serve as their new general secretary, a new position created to replace the chief executive officer's job and bring the title in line with other world nations. Montopoli's claim to fame is acting as the event director at last year's U-20 World Cup. The CSA press release plays up his impact there, stating, "As National Event Director for the 52-match tournament, he helped Canada 2007 draw close to 1.2-million spectators, engage 469.5-million cumulative television viewers, and spark $259-million in economic impact."

It's good to see the CSA finally filling some of the vacancies, but there's still several curious things about this announcement. First, it came out less than a week after the association appointed Stephen Hart as their new technical director, which seems to indicate that they've had the successful candidates in mind for both slots for the last while. If that is the case, it's curious that they'd announce Hart's appointment first, as his is the junior position. It would have made more sense to bring in the new general secretary first, and have him consult on the technical director's appointment. Even if the CSA wanted to hire their own man for the job, announcing the hirings in the reverse order would have at least created the impression of unity under the new general secretary, rather than having Montopoli start the job with someone else's hire already in place under him.

The Hart-Montopoli dynamic will be interesting to follow in days to come. Hopefully, Montopoli will respect Hart's soccer knowledge and give him a large amount of independence on the technical development side. There are plenty of business issues for Montopoli to look at, including the ongoing struggle to secure sponsors: he doesn't need to complicate things further by trying to impose his own vision. The CSA has several good people already in place, including Hart, men's head coach Dale Mitchell and women's head coach Even Pellerud: he should take full advantage of their talents. Nick Dasovic also did a great job as a contract coach with the U-23 Olympic team, pulling them past heavyweights Mexico and within a hair of qualification: he should be brought back in some role.

Another interesting element of this is how the message came out this time: the CSA pumped out a proper press release, and CP picked up on it with a story, which various news outlets then grabbed off the wire. Much more traditional, professional and effective than having it leak out through Gerry Dobson's blog.

What concerns me, though, is that Montopoli's main qualifications come from his work on the U-20 World Cup. Sure, it was a success in many ways: it set an attendance record, showcased some high-quality soccer, attracted plenty of tourists and got a lot of media coverage, which is a rarity for soccer events in this country. However, this event apparently somehow managed to lose a lot of money, raising questions about the losses that haven't been satisfactorily answered yet (to my knowledge at least). The CSA still hasn't shown that they're the best group to run soccer in this country, and hiring a head honcho whose main experience comes from running a tournament that should have made a huge profit but wound up in the red isn't a good step forward.

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