OPINION: Canada Soccer is in shambles and the time to act is now

Feb 7, 2024 | Sports

Canada Soccer is in shambles.

News broke last week that Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) was taking Mediapro, Canada Soccer’s official media partner, to court and taking back media rights from them.

It marked yet another stain on Canada Soccer’s reputation.

But it wasn’t always that way. Indeed, Canada Soccer isn’t far removed from its golden era.

Canada’s women’s national team touched the hearts of soccer fans across the nation with a “Where were you when…?” moment after capturing Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021.

The men’s national team reached its highest-ever FIFA world ranking of 33rd in February 2022 and qualified for its first FIFA World Cup since 1986.

Issues soon set in as labour disputes escalated between the players and Canada Soccer, primarily focusing on financial compensation for players.

Both teams lobbied for a new long-term agreement ahead of their respective world cups and saw nothing to show for their efforts.

The divided attention between the pitch and the bargaining table took its toll on performance.

The men’s team flamed out in the group stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as one of only two teams to fail to record a point.

And the women’s team shared the same fate with an unexpected third-place finish in the 2023 World Cup group stage by failing to progress to the knockout rounds.

Canada Soccer had the chance to right the ship so that their teams, the most talented teams the overseeing body ever produced, could focus on their play on the pitch rather than their performance at the bargaining table.

They did no such thing.

To date, there have been no long-term labour agreements in place between Canada Soccer and its players.

The women’s team has historically been in a better place on the pitch when compared to their male counterparts and they rebounded better from these disappointing negotiations, seeing better results after their disappointing World Cup.

But the men’s national team is in a much more fragile state. Its reputation diminished further when Canada Soccer opted not to schedule any international friendlies in preparation for the CONCACAF Nations League. That resulted in the team’s unexpected elimination from the league.

After that, Canada Soccer failed to adequately replace Head Coach Jon Herdman when he resigned in August 2023, opting for an interim replacement, Mauro Biello, who has only won once in his opening three games.

Despite their talent and potential, Canada’s national teams have lost their long-time and experienced captains, Christine Sinclair and Atiba Hutchinson, marking a new era of vulnerability on the pitch.

So, CSB taking back the rights to Mediapro isn’t just a matter of lost broadcasting rights. It marks yet another distraction in the backs of the minds of young teams.

Canada Soccer needs to stop getting caught up in its nearsighted and disorganized administrative shortcomings.

Shambles is a bad state to be in when the world comes to Canada for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. And without competent leadership, Canada Soccer is a mere stone’s throw away from catastrophe.