CSL Says CSA Action Is An Invalid Miscarriage Of Justice

TORONTO, ON – The Canadian Soccer League (CSL) has advised Canada’s soccer governing body, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), that it is prepared to take all necessary steps to reverse a recent decision by the CSA to strip the CSL of official sanctioning just two months prior to the kick-off of the CSL’s 2013 season.

The CSL is a semi-professional league, which in 2012 operated with 15 clubs in Ontario and one club in Quebec. It is the only league in Canada with direct membership with the CSA and has for many years been planning expansion on a regional basis across Canada, very much along the same lines recommended in the James Easton report (known also as the Rethink Management Group Report).

In a letter delivered to the CSA last week, CSL Chairman Vincent Ursini states that a recent decision taken by the CSA to remove the CSL’s sanctioning with immediate effect is invalid and “a miscarriage of justice”. In the letter, Mr. Ursini indicates that the CSA failed to adhere to its own rules, regulations and by-laws in arriving at the decision not to sanction the CSL, which at all times has been a member in good standing of the CSA. In particular, Mr. Ursini notes that the CSA provided the CSL with no prior notice of its plans to de-sanction, and no opportunity to meaningfully participate in or comment on a decision that materially affects the league’s membership status within the CSA and its CSA league sanctioning.

In the letter, Mr. Ursini documents the operational harm the CSA’s decision has already caused the CSL, given the timing of the announcement, with CSL exhibition games slated for late March and the 2013 season due to start in April.

Mr. Ursini advises CSA President Victor Montagliani in the letter that “the CSL requires an unequivocal, immediate, public statement and/or rescission of the motion whereby the CSA has refused to sanction the CSL…the CSA must realize that the CSL is prepared to take all necessary steps in order to maintain its sanctioned status within the CSA.”

The CSA’s decision to remove the CSL’s sanctioning was communicated to the CSL in a letter signed by Mr. Montagliani dated February 13th. The CSA letter provided a single reason for de-sanctioning the CSL – an earlier decision by the CSA Board of Directors to ratify and approve the recommendations of the James Easton Report, which favoured a national, regionally-based semi-professional league structure for soccer in Canada.

The irony of the CSA’s actions, according to CSL League Administrator Pino Jazbec, is that “the CSL fully supports the regionally-based concept for Canadian soccer that James Easton has advanced in his report. It is consistent with our vision for the growth of the CSL, and for the development of pro soccer in Canada. What we cannot tolerate, however, is the immediate implementation at any cost. This direction has been acted upon prematurely. ‘’

“The CSL and its owners and clubs will not sit idly by as ‘soccer road kill’ in the CSA’s efforts to force-fit a new structure into the existing professional soccer landscape in Canada without providing even basic fairness to the CSL,” Mr. Jazbec said. “We were never given notice and we never had any opportunity to comment on how the Easton Report recommendations should be implemented and we were never even asked by the CSA what impact the recommendations would have on our league. That is just unacceptable.”

In the letter to the CSA, Mr. Ursini questioned why a pledge given to the CSL and other participants at a November 16, 2012 CSA Professional Soccer Committee meeting to establish an internal CSA committee to discuss the recommended regionally-based concept and to work with existing leagues in the different regions of Canada, including the CSL, was abandoned, again without any notice to the CSL. He indicated that the CSL voted in favour of accepting the James Easton Report recommendations on the concept of a regionally-based pro soccer structure at the November 16th meeting.

“If anyone at the CSA had bothered to notify us and ask us our views before moving to de-sanction us without due process,” he said, “we would likely have asked for the opportunity to
defer implementation of the James Easton Report until a later time in order to allow all stakeholders the opportunity to consider the best structure for Canada and how best to get there in a seamless manner and without the kind of upheaval to the CSL that the CSA’s actions have now triggered.

“Make no mistake about it, our 2013 CSL season will take place whatever the CSA decides to do in response to our letter,” Mr. Jazbec said. “We haven’t been in business as a fixture of Canadian pro soccer for the past 87 years just to meekly fold the tents when our governing body acts in a manner we consider to be fundamentally unreasonable, unlawful and unfair. We hope that common sense will prevail, but we are ready to take whatever actions are necessary to defend our rights, our league and the commercial viability of our member clubs.”