Creating change - Globe and Mail

Ben Knight So what does it take to overthrow the Canadian Soccer Association? Vision, money and corporate support are all glaringly missing from the current set-up. These would be three dandy places to start. Opposition is everywhere, but it's scattered. The rival Canadian Soccer Federation, founded a year ago, is really nothing more than a rallying point for frustrated fans and officials. It has a voice – muted, of late – but far less money and connections than the CSA. But it's a start. The CSF, or something very like it, is a useful first step to ultimate change. All the frustration needs a place to come together. And even though an unspoken truce was called for World Cup qualifying, the push is already on, all over the internet. But what's been really fascinating, over the past year or so, is seeing soccer begin to bypass the CSA, pushing ahead without waiting for our embattled soccer bureaucrats to catch up. Two camps here – Canada's three professional soccer clubs and (of course) the fans. In most of the rest of the world, national soccer teams are governed by football associations anchored by the pro teams. Canada missed this boat, because there has never been enough clubs, and the few that existed never survived. Right now, there are only three. Toronto FC in MLS, and the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact in USL-1. But these teams have something their predecessors sorely lacked. Money. Lots of it. They also desperately need a steady source of young Canadian talent. Both Vancouver and Toronto have set up ambitious soccer academies, looking to develop their own players. Traditionally, this is the job of the various provincial associations. Again, it's pro versus amateur, and the pros aren't waiting around. The Whitecaps just did a deal to create an integrated structure with the BCSA. A similar move may be coming in Ontario. That's a significant change, and it happened pretty much on its own. But are three teams enough to form an FA and run the national teams? I can't see it. I can't even see why the clubs would want to take it on. But I do have a crazy suggestion, which I'll share with you Thursday. As for the fans, well that big sellout crowd that packed Toronto's BMO Field in September to loudly support Canada against Jamaica in the World Cup qualifying opener sure didn't get there on its own. Organized fans largely took over the ticket distribution, bypassing yet another ineffective advertising campaign by the CSA. The CSA could see the momentum, and wisely stayed out of the way. None of this happened last month in Montreal, when a blue tide of happy Hondurans giddily turned Montreal's Stade Saputo into a northern suburb of Tegucigalpa. If you really want to see the difference between the revolution and the status quo, those two games should give you all the evidence you need. Ah, but it's not enough to pull a dandelion. You've got to get the root, too. Academies and fired-up fans have made the lawn look nicer, but the problems are still deeply entrenched. Which brings us to … Australia. A few years back, saddled with a divided, corrupt, inflexible and infighting national soccer association, the Aussies rebelled. We'll take it up tomorrow.