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Canadian Soccer Association Voting on Reform in Ottawa Today

My personal hero, Tomasz Radzinski, walks off the grass in Edmonton wearing a "Sack the CSA" shirt following a World Cup qualifier against Mexico on October 16, 2008. (Benjamin Massey/Eighty Six Forever)
My personal hero, Tomasz Radzinski, walks off the grass in Edmonton wearing a "Sack the CSA" shirt following a World Cup qualifier against Mexico on October 16, 2008. (Benjamin Massey/Eighty Six Forever)

I haven't had much to say about the efforts to reform the Canadian Soccer Association that have been intensifying for the past year. Part of this is hard-bitten cynicism. We've all heard that the CSA needs to get its act together for decades; I joked on Twitter that CSA reform was a childhood dream of mine, except that it wasn't that much of a joke. It seemed hard to believe that actual, meaningful reform could take place, and to tell the truth I still expect the vote to somehow go awry. It's also, to be frank, a dreadfully complicated situation: I'm reminded of the power struggle for control of the Alberta Soccer Association on which I constantly thought about penning an article only to say "no, there's no way I can say what's going on without simplifying to the point of dishonesty."

That doesn't make it any less important, though, and we have come to what might be Canadian soccer's judgement day. Today, the Canadian Soccer Association's board of directors will converge in Ottawa and vote on a series of proposals to reform the CSA's Board of Directors. The first, most aggressive proposal is being championed by Ontario: to eliminate provincial soccer executives from the board of directors, creating a board consisting entirely of professional soccer and business minds. This proposal is considered a long shot to pass, but there is a compromise solution which would retain three provincial representatives on the Board of Directors and replace the remainder with professionals. Finally, there's a third, very typically Canadian proposal, which is to delay the entire matter for a year.

Outside the CSA, support for full reform is almost unanimous. Former Canadian national hero Jason de Vos has long been publicly beating the reform drum and the ink was hardly dry on Kara Lang's retirement announcement before she was doing the same. Many current players harbour such sympathies off the record; a few (such as that tragically mediocre picture I took of Tomasz Radzinski above) occasionally let those feelings break through to the surface. Writers such as the Bens Knight and Rycroft, Dan Barnes, Duane Rollins, and Richard Whittall have all piped up to large audiences on the subject of reform. Only the meddling of lifelong bureaucrats, hungry for power and perks and free flights to important soccer matches that we are paying for, stand in the way of changes everybody agrees are necessary.

The Canadian Soccer Association has made a lot of strides in the past few years. They're lucky enough to finally have a solid general secretary in Peter Montopoli after years of mismanagement. Both the men's and women's senior programs have competent coaches (although, in the women's case, not for long). I once chanted "sack the CSA!" into a hail of Mexicans during a World Cup qualifier in Edmonton that we were actually winning at the time, but my venom has been far less toxic for the past twelve months. That doesn't mean that we can let our guard down, nor does it mean that reform is unnecessary. Quite the opposite: if we're to build on our gains and avoid backsliding to the bad old days of Kevan Pipe, we must ensure that soccer in this country is overseen by those whose first priority is Canadian soccer.

A major battle is being fought today. It won't be the last battle, but that doesn't mean it isn't vital to win it.

I'll probably be asleep during the key moments, so for up to the minute coverage I recommand Canadian Soccer News and watching the #CSAreform hashtag on Twitter.