OPINION: New Canada Soccer CEO Kevin Blue has an extremely difficult job

Apr 15, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion, Sports

New Canada Soccer General Secretary and CEO Kevin Blue’s job is as tough as they come, and he knows it.

“The work ahead is substantial and we will resolutely work on making progress, one day at a time,” Blue wrote in a “letter to Canada” on Feb. 29, the day his hiring was announced.

Blue joins Canada Soccer after four years as Golf Canada’s Chief Sport Officer, and experience working in various positions at Stanford University and the University of California, Davis.

He was born in Montreal, but grew up in Toronto before attending Stanford University as a student athlete in golf. He then received a PhD in sport psychology from Michigan State University.

A bevy of financial issues are only heightened by the sheer number of key tournaments for the national teams both this summer and in the next couple years, highlighted by Canada co-hosting the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.

Blue addressed the financial situation in a public financial update from March 30.

The statement said the Canada Soccer budget shows a $4 million operating deficit on $30 million of total expenses in the 2024 financial year.

“While it is common for non-profit sports organizations to operate at surpluses or deficits depending on annual circumstances, the current level of Canada Soccer’s operating deficit is not sustainable and cannot continue in the future,” Blue said in the update.

When financial issues stay off the field, they’re manageable. But things get messy when they start impacting the teams.

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Player lockouts and financial issues kept the men’s national team out of numerous potential games across 2022 and 2023, including the team holding out of a friendly against Panama in June of 2022 over compensatory concerns.

Similarly, the women’s team played under protest in the 2023 edition of the SheBelieves Cup during a labour dispute with the federation.

This isn’t even mentioning the amount of friendlies not scheduled due to not being financially able to, taking away some of the rare times where national teams can build chemistry and test themselves in preparation for larger, more important competitions.

Canadian soccer supporter Tobyn Rootman says he’s encouraged by how Blue knows how hard the job will be.

“It’s clear with Kevin Blue that he knows the history of this organization, the current place that this organization is in and he’s ready to try and work past that,” Rootman said.

“It’s someone who’s knowingly taking on a very difficult job, and I think that shows a strong character,” he said. “He wouldn’t take the job if he didn’t want to try and make progress.”

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Financial issues are not new for Canada Soccer. The federation has never really even had the funds to hold consistent youth national team camps.

What is new is the level of talent and popularity around the Canadian national teams. No longer are these teams lurking in the background of mainstream Canadian sports.

The women are the reigning Olympic champions. The men are reaching record highs in the FIFA rankings and qualifying for major tournaments fans wouldn’t have even dreamed of playing in a decade ago.

It’s no secret Canada Soccer is struggling financially. Kevin Blue’s job is to figure out how to fix it, no matter how hard that may be.