Published: May 30, 7:15 p.m ET
Updated: May 30, 11:41 p.m. ET
The Canadian federal government is forcing Canada Soccer to change what Christine Sinclair called a “culture of secrecy and obstruction.”
The government will now require the CSA to meet certain conditions in order to keep hold of their federal funding.
As reported by CBC News’ Ashley Burke, Sport Minister Pascale-St Onge sent a letter to the organization on Tuesday in which she noted that concerns about the organization’s “lack of financial transparency” and ongoing labour disputes have led to this decision.
What exactly will Canada Soccer have to do?
The organization will be mandated to undergo a financial audit as well as a third-party governance review that will look into its transparency, financial decision-making, and governance structures. Canada Soccer must also accept advice from an external advisory group in order to continue receiving funding from the government.
The government wants to commission an independent audit of Canada Soccer’s finances to cover the period from March 1, 2017, to March 31, 2023. That period would span the signing of the controversial Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) deal signed in 2018, under which CSB pays Canada Soccer between $3 million and $4 million a year, along with “certain other payments,” according to the organization’s latest audited financial statement.
“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 the letter to Canada Soccer’s interim general secretary Jason de Vos.
The timespan also includes the most recent financial controversies, such as the significant budget cuts to both national teams, which led the women’s team to threaten to boycott this winter’s SheBelieves Cup — a major World Cup preparation window — followed by Canada Soccer threatening severe legal action, resulting in CanWNT playing the tournament under protest.
“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. “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.”
The federal government gave Canada Soccer $5 million in the fiscal year ending in December 2022, according to the CSA’s most recent audited financial statement. That statement suggests that Canada Soccer spent nearly $54 million in 2022, around $6 million more than it brought in. $19 million of the spending went to the men’s teams and roughly $14 million went to the women’s teams.
Getting hold of these kinds of numbers, until recently, was not exactly easy. Amid allegations of buried statements and poor record-keeping and transparency, CanWNT captain Sinclair said before the Heritage Committee earlier this year that Canada Soccer has cultivated a “culture of secrecy and obstruction” around its finances.
“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.
Canada Soccer responded to the letter on Tuesday evening with a press release pledging full cooperation in meeting the Minister of Sport’s requests, leading with the headline that the organization welcomes the financial and governance reviews.
Last June, Canadian men’s and women’s national team players called on the federal government to investigate Canada Soccer‘s “governance practices” and media and sponsorship contract with CSB.
In the face of mounting pressure after the SheBelieves Cup, and huge controversy when Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Quinn, and Sophie Schmidt spoke in Ottawa in front of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis resigned. Vice president Charmaine Crooks’ was promoted to interim president, much to the frustration of the women’s team who felt she was part of the old guard.
Crooks was formally elected President at Canada Soccer’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and spoke before the the Heritage Committee just days later, following in the footsteps of the three previous presidents who had done the same earlier this year. In her opening remarks, Crooks expressed the desire for unity within Canadian soccer ranks and the need to modernize the CSB deal.
There have never been more eyes on Canadian soccer players on the pitch, and there’s certainly never been more eyes on the operations off of it.