The Canadian men’s and women’s soccer teams are urging change in Canada Soccer’s leadership at the governing body’s annual meeting this week in Saint John, N.B.
In a letter to presidents of the provincial federations, the players say soccer in Canada is at “an inflection point, and we are deeply concerned about the ability of Canada Soccer’s leadership to guide the organization into the future.”
“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,” the players say in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press. “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.”
“We believe that this change in vision requires a change in leadership, including any staff in leadership positions who are committed to the old leadership and the old vision … We urge you to use your vote at this year’s annual meeting of members to support new voices and to effect real change,” the letter continues.
The ongoing labour dispute prompted Nick Bontis to resign as president, which is an elected position with Canada Soccer, in late February. And Earl Cochrane announced last month he was stepping down as general secretary, the top staff position in the organization.
Former Olympian Charmaine Crooks was named interim president. The former track star has been on the Canada Soccer board since 2012-13 and served as vice-president since January 2021.
Former Canada captain Jason deVos, a Canada Soccer Hall of Famer who is currently Canada Soccer’s director of development, has been named interim general secretary.
Crooks faces a challenge from former Canada Soccer vice-president Rob Newman in Saturday’s presidential election.
With Crooks elevated to interim president, the Canada Soccer board named Kelly Brown as acting vice-president. Brown, elected a Canada Soccer independent director in 2020, is not running for VP but will stay on the board.
Board members Paul-Claude Berube and Dale Briggs are running for vice-president. Berube has been on the board since 2015-16 and Briggs since 2019-20.
Three jobs on the board — which normally numbers the president plus 13 — are up for election.
Don Story, the incumbent for Manitoba/Saskatchewan/Nunavut, is running unopposed. Bob Richardson (Ontario) and Karen MacNeill (Alberta) are not seeking re-election.
The players, in their letter, say better leadership, better transparency, and better governance are needed at Canada Soccer.
“More than one-third of Canada Soccer’s current board has been in place since 2018,” the letter says. “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. Soccer has been growing in Canada, it appears, not because of Canada Soccer, but despite Canada Soccer.
“We believe that it is time for real change to take place within the federation, and 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 letter is signed by the women’s and men’s national soccer teams players’ associations.
“We recognize that the provincial soccer federations are the pulse of Canadian soccer and are critical to the success of soccer in Canada,” it says. “You have the power to make a significant impact on the future of our sport, and we urge you to use your voice and your vote to support the changes we all want to see to truly drive this sport and this organization forward.”
—Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press