Canada Soccer Controversy: Who is CSB?

CanWNT’s Jessie Fleming Playing Against New Zealand at TD Place Stadium

BREAKDOWN – With Canada’s Women’s National Team releasing a scathing statement about Canada Soccer, the Men’s Team released their own statement backing their national counterparts and directly pointed the finger towards Canada Soccer and a deal they made with private-business Canada Soccer Business (CSB).

But what is this deal with Canada Soccer and CSB, and why are both National Teams going so far as to call out Canada Soccer because of it and even, in the Women’s case, going on strike in response to it?

Here is the background on this divisive deal.

Canada Soccer Controversy: Who is CSB?

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Who Is CSB?

Canada Soccer Business (CSB) is a registered private company that is made up of Canadian Premier League (CPL) franchise owners. They were formed back in 2018 to represent “commercial assets for the CPL and Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) ahead of its inaugural season and, potentially, the 2026 World Cup”, according to a Toronto Sun exclusive when it was first announced.

READ MORE: The Canadian Premier League: A Year in Review

The plan was for them to fund a majority of the CPL, as well as the National Teams. Canada Soccer announced a deal with them on January 1st, 2019, giving them the rights for “all corporate partnerships and broadcasting rights for Women’s and Men’s National Team Programs” and “all commercial assets of the CPL including partnership and media assets of each club within the league” and even the rights to the Canadian Championship.

The agreement was for a 10-year term, and, according to Rick Westhead,  in return for Canada Soccer giving CSB all these rights, CSB was going to guaranteed fee annually throughout that term, starting at $3 million and going up all the way until $3.5 million come 2027.

CSB even has the right to extend that deal for a further 10 years, with the payment then increasing to at least $4 million per year.

Much of the media and sponsorship deals in the CPL are done through CSB, such as the deal with Spanish media company Mediapro, which formed OneSoccer. OneSoccer exclusively streams all CPL and national team games.

Since that agreement, CSB has reportedly gained all revenue from national team sponsorships, whose figures potentially rise up to $5 million.

What Does CSB Have to Do with the National Teams?

With CSB getting a large chunk of the revenue from the National Teams, part of the promise of the deal was that it was going to be re-invested into both the CPL and back into the national teams. However, according to previous and current joint-player statements, this has not been fully met.

Last summer, both national teams came out with a joint-statement, asking for Canada Soccer to be more transparent with their inner workings after it was reported by Rick Westhead that the deal with CSB was not properly approved by the CSA Board of Members.

They demanded that they explain their decision-making process in relation to the deal, release information about the deal itself, and be included in the decision-making processes next time it impacts the national teams.

The response from Canada Soccer was less than satisfactory for the players of both teams, but it seemed like they entered into negotiations about this (and many other issues) in the weeks that followed.

Now, however, it seems that things have once again boiled over. This time, both national teams released individual statements describing their discontent with Canada Soccer, and their funding of the national team program.

The Men’s statement specifically claimed that both national team Player Associations have tried to have Canada Soccer provide access to their financial records to support their claim that they do not have the funding but to no avail.

They explicitly mentioned their suspicion of this claim in accordance with their agreement with CSB, and how a large chunk of the revenue that is being generated by both National Teams is being streamlined to the for-profit organization.

They then call out this funding issue to be “mismanagement” on behalf of Canada Soccer, and its dealings with CSB.

What Happens Next?

Shortly after both recent statements were released, Christine Sinclair confirmed that the Canada Women’s National team was going to refrain from participating in any training or matches, including the upcoming SheBelieves Cup.

It is unknown if this will also affect the Men’s team and their upcoming March window where they face Curacao and Honduras in the CONCACAF Nations League.

The situation with CSB remains a tricky one. Canada Soccer cancelling that deal could have massive repercussions for the CPL and its infrastructure. The league as just added a new team in Vancouver FC, following the folding of former CPL team FC Edmonton. How the league would manage without the influx of revenue coming from CSB is unclear, and if the league could even survive such a financial hit, remains unclear

Nevertheless, Canada Soccer has a mountain of questions to answer for, much to do with their dealings with CSB. Whether such an agreement, especially one that could last for two decades, could be feasibly dissolved without negatively impacting both the CPL and the National Teams, is a question that will remain on the minds of many Canadian Soccer fans, tonight.