I have received numerous requests recently to wade into the murky waters of the ongoing power struggle at the Alberta Soccer Association (ASA). For those of you who are unaware of what has been going on in Alberta, there are two rival Boards vying for control of the ASA.
As the matter is now before a Court of Queen's Bench justice, pending a decision in mid-August, it is not something on which I can comment. What I can comment on, though, is a letter that was forwarded to me by a member of the ASA in early June.
The letter is dated May 26, 2010, and it is from the Vice-President of the ASA, Mario Charpentier, to all members of the ASA.
Among other things, the letter gives an update on the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), held in Winnipeg on May 15.
As many of you know, I attended that AGM as a representative of the Men's National Team Program. Following the AGM, I wrote about the most important decision that was made that weekend, a vote in favour of governance reform for the CSA.
I went to great lengths to ensure that what I wrote was accurate; such was the importance of the information that I was conveying. I spoke with members of the CSA's Constitution Committee on numerous occasions to make sure that what I wrote was worded exactly as it should be, so that there were no errors and no ambiguity.
Which is why I was so incensed by what I read in the letter from the ASA to its members - it was full of errors and misinterpretations. This is one of the paragraphs from that letter:
CSA's governance committee proposed a framework for changing how CSA governs itself, in line with an approach used in only 2 of over 200 countries in FIFA. Some provinces, including Alberta, were opposed to some of the recommendations. One proposed change related to provincial representation. It was suggested that only 2 Provinces be given permanent representation on the CSA Board: Ontario and Quebec, with one other representative from the remaining provinces. This change, if enacted, could put Alberta in a situation where the fourth largest province in the country would have no voice or vote on the CSA Board. We therefore opposed that change.
Not only is the wording of that paragraph derogatory in its tone, suggesting that the Constitution Committee is advocating the implementation of a seldom-used framework, the information provided is simply untrue.
The framework proposed by the Constitution Committee draws on the successful frameworks operating in a number of leading countries in FIFA, including those adopted by four countries whose sport organizations, like Canada, are federal in nature: Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the United States.
In addition, the principles of the new framework are identical to the principles that England's FA has been ordered to implement by a commission of inquiry in that country.
Suggesting that the framework is "in line with an approach used in only 2 of over 200 countries in FIFA" is misleading, to say the least. In fact it is in line with just about every national sport organization within FIFA that is comparable to Canada's.
Also, the ASA Vice-President's assertion that "only 2 Provinces be given permanent representation on the CSA Board" is also untrue.
In fact, the proposals call for NO Provincial representation on the Board of Directors. There is a deeply rooted conflict of interest when representatives of provincial bodies sit on the Board of their national governing body. It is simply impossible for them to separate their provincial agendas from their national mandate. That is why the governance proposal calls for the replacement of the presidents of provincial Associations on the Board of Directors. The new Board of Directors will bring together three different groups of individuals: those who have the skill-sets (e.g., legal, financial and governance) that are necessary to govern the CSA in the modern age, those who have real connections to resources across Canada's soccer community, and individuals who bring to the national Board table the perspectives of Canada's six regions.
Here is the next paragraph of the ASA letter:
The other change that was opposed by Alberta was the approach taken to the Technical committee and its programs that we felt needed to be re-considered. Mike Traficante, from Edmonton, is a CSA Executive Board Member who now chairs the CSA Technical Committee. He is responsible for all National Teams and in addition he is responsible for player, coach and referee development across Canada. This is good for Alberta and continues to promote Alberta's strong contributions to soccer in Canada. We will continue to work with the CSA Governance Committee to safeguard and advance Alberta's interests at the national level.
The last sentence of that paragraph sums up many of the problems we face in Canada right now. It implies that the primary responsibility of the CSA Board of Directors is to "safeguard and advance" the interests of provincial Associations.
Give me a break.
The purpose of the CSA is to safeguard and advance the higher interest of the betterment of the game of soccer in Canada - period. There should be no place for provincial agendas at the table of the Board of Directors at the CSA. The job of the Board is to establish policies and pursue opportunities that are good for the game across the country.
It is the narrow view that the provincial Associations rule at CSA, more than anything else, that is holding us back.
Under the proposed framework, the Board's role will be to oversee the finances of the CSA, to develop policies that will allow its programs to develop and produce success, and to nurture and develop funding opportunities and revenue streams that will allow the Association to grow and be strong.
The operational side of the CSA will fall to the General Secretary, Peter Montopoli. He will guide the implementation of the CSA's short and long-term priorities. Acting on the advice of his technical staff, he will have the authority to make decisions that allow for the development of programs to their highest level, which is exactly as it should be. The CSA employs good people, like Peter Montopoli, and they need to have the shackles removed so that they can do their jobs effectively.
This is why governance reform is such an important issue for the future of the game in Canada. We desperately need to eliminate the provincial mentality that is infecting the game so that the CSA can put in place a strong, effective Board of Directors who will not be conflicted by provincial loyalties - who will instead work together, as a team, for the betterment of the game across the country, while the operational side of the organization can be run by people who have been hired to do just that.
There may be some confusion about what this proposal for governance renewal entails, and that may be the reason why some provinces voted against the motion. The letter from the ASA to its membership appears to reflect this confusion, together with its authors' apparent failure to appreciate how important these proposed changes are for the future of the game in Canada.
For the purpose of educating those who have questions about the proposed governance renewal, the Constitution Committee is setting up a blog, which will be activated shortly. Once the blog is up and running, I will post a link to it in my blog here at cbcsports.ca.
A word of warning - the blog is not a forum to bash the CSA, something that has become all too common these days. It is a forum to educate and inform. If you have questions about what the governance proposals mean in terms of how the CSA will operate in future, both at the national level and across the country, you can post your questions and have them answered by members of the Constitution Committee.
I am often asked by parents, coaches, and club administrators, "What can I do to help change Canadian soccer?" For starters, you can educate yourself about the proposals for governance renewal and what it means for the future of the game in Canada. Once you have learned about the proposed changes, you will see that a clear, effective governance structure will be a major boost to the way the game is run across the country.
You can then call or write your district representative, and tell them that you are in favour of governance reform and that you want your voice to be heard.
Those district representatives can then convey that message to their provincial representatives, who in turn will vote on the bylaw changes that need to be ratified in order for this governance reform to come into effect. They have a responsibility to listen to, and accurately express the views of their members on the important issues faced by soccer in Canada.
Your might think that on your own you cannot bring about change, that your voice will not be heard. But when everyone across the country starts voicing the same view - that they want change that is for the good of soccer in Canada - you will be heard loud and clear.
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