The sport minister imposes new conditions on Canada Soccer’s funding

The sport minister imposes new conditions on Canada Soccer’s funding
The sport minister imposes new conditions on Canada Soccer’s funding

The federal sports minister has told Canada Soccer the government is attaching new strings to the sports organization’s federal funding going forward, CBC News has learned.

Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge sent the soccer organization a letter on Tuesday saying she shares concerns about the organization’s “lack of financial transparency” and ongoing labor disputes.

St-Onge said Canada Soccer must undergo a financial audit and a governance review and must accept advice from an external advisory group in order to continue receiving federal funding.

“We expect Canada Soccer to make the necessary changes to address equality between its national team programs as soon as possible,” St-Onge wrote in the letter sent to Canada Soccer and obtained by CBC News.

“Canadians expect to see greater transparency with respect to how Canada Soccer is allocating funds between its men’s and women’s programs, including the negotiating of business contracts and broadcasting agreements.”

WATCH l Governing body must comply with new conditions to keep getting federal funding:

New rules for Canada Soccer after long labor disputes

Ottawa says Canada’s governing soccer body must be more transparent and comply with new conditions to keep getting federal funding. Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge said the organization must undergo a financial audit and governance review, and take external advice.

The new requirements for Canada Soccer come after months of turmoil at the top of the sport’s governing body. Labor disputes this year led to the organization’s president Nick Bontis and general secretary Earl Cochrane stepping down.

Four Olympic soccer champions on the women’s team went before a parliamentary committee in March to talk about their battle with Canada Soccer for equal treatment and pay. They described being treated like second-class players by their own organization.

Team captain Christine Sinclair cited a “culture of secrecy and obstruction” at Canada Soccer and said players don’t know how the money is coming in or going out.

WATCH l Players on women’s national soccer team take equality fight to Parliament Hill:

Women’s soccer players take equality fight to Parliament Hill

Members of Canada’s gold-medal winning women’s soccer team told MPs they’re being asked to do more with less and aren’t being compensated, or treated, the same as members of the men’s team.

In her letter to Canada Soccer, St-Onge said the organization’s governance review must be conducted by a third party and must look into its transparency, financial decision-making and governance structures.

The federal government gave the soccer organization $5 million in the year fiscal ending in December 2022, according to Canada Soccer’s latest audited financial statement.

The government wants to commission an independent audit of Canada Soccer’s finances covering the period from March 1, 2017 to March 31, 2023.

“This audit will aim to confirm that the funding from the government has been allocated appropriately and in compliance with the terms and conditions of your contribution agreements,” St-Onge wrote in a letter to Canada Soccer’s interim secretary general Jason de Vos.

The minister said her department plans to set up an external advisory group to help Canada Soccer address the recommendations coming out of its governance review and audit. The advisory group would also address how information is shared with athletes, the letter said.

“With the FIFA World Cup coming to North America in 2026, the spotlight will be shining on our country and I want to ensure that Canada Soccer is implementing the strongest governance practices to be a responsible leader,” St-Onge wrote in the letter to Canadian Soccer.

WATCH | Canada soccer execs questioned over treatment of women’s team:

Canada Soccer execs questioned over treatment of women’s team

Canada Soccer executives were questioned by MPs about their treatment of the women’s soccer team in Ottawa Thursday. One executive says he apologized to Christine Sinclair after she called him out for using sexist language to recall a conversation.

St-Onge compelled Hockey Canada to meet similar conditions in return for taxpayer dollars following intense public scrutiny of its handling of sexual assault allegations.

Canada Soccer agrees to new conditions

In response to St-Onge’s letter, Canada Soccer issued a statement saying it has agreed to the minister’s requests and will undertake a financial compliance audit and a governance review.

“The two reviews will occur simultaneously and aim to strengthen and improve the financial and governance structures at Canada Soccer,” wrote Canada Soccer’s interim general secretary Jason de Vos.

De Vos also said his organization “has already taken steps to enhance our governance standards.”

According to its latest audited financial statement, Canada Soccer spent close to $54 million and brought in only about $48 million in revenue in 2022. Of that sum, $19 million went to the men’s teams and roughly $14 million went to the women’s teams, the financial statement said.

Soccer Canada has also come in for criticism from the women’s and men’s teams over a controversial business deal that hit in 2018.

The soccer organization agreed to contract out a decade’s worth of sponsorship and broadcasting deals to a private company called Canada Soccer Business. In exchange, the company pays Canada Soccer $3 million to $4 million a year, along with “certain other payments,” according to the organization’s latest audited financial statement.

In a statement issued in February, the men’s national team said the organization’s “principle revenue streams have been in large part diverted” to CSB, who are the “owners of for-profit minor league professional soccer teams.”

The newly elected president of Canada Soccer, Charmaine Crooks, told MPs on the Canadian heritage committee earlier this month that she saw an “opportunity to reset” the organization and “modernize” the 2018 agreement with Canada Soccer Business.

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