Just a month ago, everything seemed to be going well for Canada Soccer.
The national women’s national team is a defender of the Olympic title, the men’s team achieved its first appearance at the World Championships since 1986, and the country was preparing to co-host the 2026 Men’s World Championships.
Moments like Sam Adekugbe celebration of snow embankments in Edmonton, increased enthusiasm among fans across the country during a string of men’s team wins.
How quickly the momentum stopped – and with it the golden financial opportunity.
First, Canada Soccer organized a friendly match with Iran, which was eventually canceled due to widespread opposition. Sunday’s substitution match against Panama was also rounded out just hours before the start, after Canadian players refused to enter the pitch due to salary concerns.
The upcoming match on Thursday against Curaçau is now in doubt.
“I would consider this a crisis”
In addition to Canadian clubs recently playing in the NHL playoffs, the national men’s soccer team was probably the hottest ticket in the country because of its recent dominance and team of young, fun players reflecting the nation’s diversity.
The financial outlook was also unprecedented. Not only will the opportunity be lost, but the canceled matches will have financial consequences for the national sports authority.
“The demand has been huge and when they have that kind of time, they have to strike. They have to strike when it’s hot. They need funding,” said David Chong, CEO of MKTG Canada, the sports marketing agency.
“Even before this issue with [Iran] Since the friendly match has been canceled, I think Canada Soccer is having a hard time keeping up with the demand for simple things like goods, ”he said.
The MKTG represents Scotiabank and helped mediate a sponsorship deal with CONCACAF, the sports body that hosted the recent World Cup qualifier where Canada finished at the top of the rankings. The MKTG has also been in talks with Canada Soccer in recent years on behalf of several clients looking for sponsorship opportunities, although Chong said no deals were ultimately concluded.
According to him, the controversy over the proposed match with Iran may force potential sponsors to reconsider their relationship with Canada Soccer, as companies always take into account the organization’s achievements, as well as its reliability and reputation.
“For them, I would consider it a crisis,” he said. “The long-term effect, that is, the health of the brand, must be taken into account.”
The success of the men’s national team, which qualified for the World Cup for the first time in decades, was a good story for the fans, but it is becoming a heartbreaking story.
“It’s a gong show,” he said Stephen Brunt of Sportsnet about Canadian football. “It’s a mess they made themselves.”
Families of those who died on the plane of the Ukrainian international airline PS752 when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down a plane in 2020 – killed all 176 passengers and crew, including 85 Canadians and permanent residents – described the planned exhibition match as an insult, especially given the persistent concerns about the IRGC’s possible links to the Iranian team.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a bad idea for Canada Soccer to invite the Iranian national football team. many others who condemned the match.
The International Exhibition Game is known as “friendly” – but not just for fun. Games can be a key part of preparation on the court before an important tournament, such as the World Cup.
They are also part of the backbone of how national federations like Canada Soccer generate revenue. Normally, the visiting team is paid a sum of money to play the match, while the host country raises funds through ticket sales, sponsorships and broadcasts.
According to the head of the Iranian national team, Canada Soccer has agreed to pay the Iranian Football Association $ 400,000 to play an exhibition match in Vancouver.
Costs can accumulate as tickets are refunded for both canceled matches, payments to Iran and Panama, and other costs incurred in hosting the proposed matches are incurred.
The reported sum agreed by Canada and Iran was reasonable, said Pierre Azaria, general manager of MCI Sport, a Swiss agency that organizes international matches and training camps for football clubs and national federations.
International matches are often expensive, he said, given the cost of private jets, security and hotels. Normally, a national football association would send at least 55 people, a contingent of players, coaches and staff, to such a match.
Top-ranked teams can insist on fees for each match between $ 2 million and $ 3 million, he said.
At the upcoming World Cup, Canada will face African and European national teams, so it would be ideal to schedule show games against countries from these regions before the November tournament.
When Canada was looking for potential opponents, Azaria said he was working to arrange a match with Tunisia.
Azaria said Canada Soccer was unwilling to pay the amount proposed by Tunisia.
“That didn’t happen at the end of the day,” he said.
Instead, the Tunisian team will earn more than $ 1 million, Azaria said he will play in Japan.
Tunisia, Iran and Canada qualified for the World Cup. Iran ranks 21st in the world and Tunisia 35th, followed by Canada 38th.
Iran is often considered a pariah and is not an opponent of high demand.
“For many teams, I don’t even suggest Iran because politics can be problematic,” Azaria said. “Why should we work with the risk of scandal?”
A Canada Soccer official said the organization was unable to respond to a request for an interview.
Questionable decision making
Canada Soccer currently has a wealth of success on the field for both men and women, but that’s not what bothers the organization.
“This is perhaps one of the best moments in Canadian football history from a business standpoint,” said Ann Pegoraro, a professor of sports management at the University of Guelph.
After the controversy over Iran, Pegoraro said she wondered if Canada Soccer was prepared or professional enough to make the right decisions.
“We’ve seen in this that the business side of the house has taken a pretty big wrong step when the light is probably shining brightest on it,” she said.
The players did not go to the field against Panama over the weekend due to a salary dispute. They are calling for greater transparency than Canada Soccer, changes in the organization’s leadership and compensation for the World Cup, which includes a 40 per cent cash prize and a “comprehensive package of friends and family” for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Players also want a review of the contract Canada Soccer signed with Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) in 2019. 10-year contract sees that the CSB represents both the men’s and women’s national teams in all sponsorship and broadcast contracts.
SEE | An inside look at Panama’s failed game:
in a statement CSB table Scott Mitchell said he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation of the match in Panama, but supported the players in calling for transparency from Canada Soccer.
But Canadian football president Nick Bontis said the proposal proposed by the players is not financially feasible.
“I cannot accept this offer, which will put our organization in a financial situation that is unsustainable,” he said at a Sunday afternoon news conference, while apologizing to fans.
On Sunday, Canadian football leaders said they had moved mountains in a short time to coordinate a match in Panama, and apologized to the visiting football authority for the failed match.
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