The Hamilton Spectator
Canada Soccer officials defend deal
Canada Soccer defended its controversial deal with Canadian Soccer Business on Monday under questioning on Parliament Hill by the Heritage Committee.
But Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane said talks were underway to “modernize” the agreement,
Canada Soccer board member Paul-Claude Bérubé said the governing body, back in 2017 when negotiations with the CSB started, was “spending hand over fist” to the tune of $1 million a year just to broadcast national team games.
“We needed income to ensure we could continue developing soccer across Canada,” Bérubé told the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.
“And this was one of the approaches that was approved by the board of directors.”
The agreement, which allows the CSB to oversee and retain funds from marketing and broadcasting rights in exchange for an annual payment to Canada Soccer, has come under fire. Critics say terms of the deal do not reflect or reward the recent success of both national teams.
Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said the CSB deal has “absolutely handcuffed” Canada Soccer.
Bérubé, who said the agreement was unanimously approved by the board, said Canada Soccer receives $3 million a year under the CSB deal.
Money from the broadcasting and sponsorship right has also gone to help fund the men’s Canadian Premier League.
Cochrane said efforts are underway to rework the CSB deal, acknowledging that “today the unilateral term option and limited ability for us to share in upside revenue are drawbacks of the agreement.”
“But we hope to resolve those issues shortly,” he said.
Cochrane passed along most of the CSB questions to Bérubé who, unlike Cochrane, was part of the board when the agreement was struck.
Cochrane also acknowledged the governing body had erred in cuts this year to the women’s team program.
“Recently, Canada Soccer made some funding decisions for the operations of the women’s team that it thought would have minimal impact. We were wrong,” Cochrane said.
“Those decisions were made with good intentions of controlling spending. But we should not have made those decisions that negatively impacted the women’s team,” he added.
Cochrane said Canada Soccer was in talks with the women’s team technical staff to give them what they need ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand
Canada Soccer was also represented Monday by board director Stephanie J. Geosits. All three officials appeared via video conference.
Former Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis was invited to appear but was unable to attend.
“Everybody around this table wanted Mr. Bontis,” said Waugh.
The committee moved to require Bontis, Canada Soccer chief financial officer Sean Heffernan and CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani, a Vancouver native who is a former president of Canada Soccer, to appear before a future hearing.
Bontis resigned last month after provincial and territorial governing bodies, in a letter, asked him to step down.