Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Mark Noonan, the CEO of Canadian Soccer Business and commissioner of the CPL, said on Tuesday that the 'CSB has been misunderstood.'HO/The Canadian Press

Canada Soccer Business, the little-known entity that represents Canada Soccer’s corporate partnerships and broadcast rights among other assets, is tired of getting slagged.

And it says it wants to help the Canadian men’s and women’s teams, who have lambasted both Canada Soccer and its deal with the CSB during increasingly testy labour negotiations.

“The CSB has been misunderstood,” said Mark Noonan, who doubles as CEO of Canadian Soccer Business and commissioner of the Canadian Premier League. “Probably we haven’t done a good job of telling people what CSB is all about – the ways that we are contributing to the growth of soccer in Canada and the investments that we’ve made.

“It’s time for us to do a better job of telling our story in a very transparent way,” he added.

Cathal Kelly: Canada Soccer to blame for women’s national team players’ dispute

The CSN essentially markets Canada’s soccer product, on the field and off, via broadcast and sponsorship agreements. It pays the governing body a set amount each year with the rest helping fund the Canadian Premier League.

The long-term deal came with very few public details. And CSB has come under fire in recent weeks, with the Canadian men’s team taking square aim in an open letter Friday.

“Canada Soccer’s principal revenue streams have been in large part diverted to Canadian Soccer Business to the benefit of the owners of for-profit minor league professional soccer teams,” it said in reference to the Canadian Premier League, which is now entering its fifth season.

“How Canada Soccer is allocating or using funds is unclear and cloaked in secrecy,” the men added.

The CBS issued a rare public statement Monday evening, presenting its case. It said its investors – the owners of the eight CPL teams – have invested close to $100-million “in the development of the game.”

“No investor in CSB has ever taken a distribution,” it added.

And it said it has offered “several times over the past year, and as recently as last month,” to provide “incremental” resources to Canada Soccer.

“We want to solve problems,” Noonan told The Canadian Press on Tuesday. “We want to be an ally for the success of our national teams. When our national teams do well, it’s good for business. And when our national teams are unhappy and are expressing that we need more training resources, we want to help solve that problem.”

The offer included “encouraging Canada Soccer” to hold a sendoff series for the women’s team on home soil ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and helping develop revenue sources to provide additional training resources.

“We’ve gone to Canada Soccer and said ‘Help us understand the problems,”’ said Noonan, adding such discussions were continuing Tuesday.

The help could range from new money to offering a CPL stadium rent-free to host a game.

“That would be incremental money beyond the guarantee,” said Noonan. “And we have no contractual obligation to increase our guarantee. We’ve proactively said ‘What can we do here?”’ The CSB was announced in March 2018 as “a new sports enterprise representing commercial assets and inventory for marquee soccer properties in Canada.”

It represents corporate partnerships and broadcast rights for the women’s and men’s national team programs, all commercial assets of the CPL, the Canadian Championship and Canadian soccer grassroots programs.

The “representation agreement” with Canada Soccer was for a 10-year term. Noonan says it could last a further five years via a possible extension.

Canada Soccer, which does not hold an ownership stake in CSB, is reportedly receiving $3-million to $4-million a year currently under the deal as “the beneficiary of a rights fee guarantee.”

Noonan did not detail the financial arrangements, but said the annual guarantee is “three times what Canada Soccer was making commercially back in 2018 when nobody was willing to take a risk.”

He said CSB also reduced more than $1-million in “direct bottom-line television production expense in addition to the guarantee.

“And that guarantee goes up every single year of the agreement no matter how well the teams do, how we do. So we’ve taken on a big risk there,” he said.

So why are the national team programs. given the success of the men getting to the World Cup and the women winning Olympic gold, undergoing cuts?

“I can’t answer that question,” said Noonan. “I’m not intimate with any of the cuts, what has been cut, what hasn’t been cut. That really is a Canada Soccer question.”

CSB said it made a presentation last July to the women’s team, offering “direct dialogue there to see how we can ally and use resources to be able to make sure that they have what they need to be successful on the field.”

Noonan said the CSB is “100 per cent open” to having discussions with the men’s and women’s teams.

He said whatever the length of the CSB agreement with Canada Soccer, “we’re building this asset for soccer in Canada that ultimately belongs to Canada Soccer.

“At the end of this term, we’re either going to extend it if it’s working for everybody or Canada Soccer is going to have a far more valuable asset for soccer in Canada.”

U.S. Soccer had a similar deal with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), the marketing arm of Major League Soccer, until it decided not to renew the commercial rights partnership when their agreement expired at the end of 2022 after some 20 years.

As one might expect, Noonan took umbrage at the Canadian men’s team referring to the CPL as “minor league professional soccer.”

The CPL has created 300 jobs for players, 40 for coaches, 100 executive and administrative jobs, and 460 referees/officials, said Noonan. It has also grown feeder leagues like League 1 Ontario, B.C., and the PLSQ in Quebec, among others.

He called the CPL “a growth engine and an engine of opportunity.”

Noonan said the people behind the now-defunct FC Edmonton did not get any money back from their CSB investment, saying the other owners covered a number of losses the franchise incurred.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles