Most recently Major League Soccer (MLS) made a decision, supported and lobbied for by Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC, to remove the Canadian-born player roster quota from 6 players to zero for the coming MLS season.
I was a Whitecaps season ticket holder in the 1970s and 80s and have been again for the past 5 years. I will continue to be so into the future as the club embarks on its MLS debut in 2011. Professional football is a business, the business of securing supporters through winning games and, hopefully, entertaining everyone in the process. I get it. As a fan, I support the club’s right to choose the players that will help them succeed. The reality is that player development in this country has a long way to go before a decent number of Canadian players can hold positions in this league based on merit.
Now if the Vancouver Whitecaps were only loosely affiliated with the British Columbia Soccer Association (BCSA) by virtue of being a professional club directly affiliated with the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) then how they go about the business of player development (or not) is entirely their choice. The unsettling truth, however, is that Whitecaps FC is currently deeply embedded in the BCSA Player Development Model in this province. One might even suggest that the Whitecaps seem to be directing player development in this province rather than the BCSA. As time passes, some believe that the Whitecaps may even run ALL elite player development locally. This makes the Whitecap’s support of the current new MLS ruling somewhat puzzling and contradictory. But again, Whitecaps FC must try and put the best product on the field right from the start. The issue is not with the Whitecaps but rather with the British Columbia Soccer Association who have embedded this professional club at the heart of its player development model. It’s clear that the mandate of the Whitecaps is different from that of the BCSA - that should be more than evident now. To believe otherwise is naive at best on the part of the BCSA. I raised this months ago in an editorial (see: BC Soccer Weds Whitecaps in Private Ceremony).
So I would like to pose a few questions to the BCSA Board and Staff, as should all of us who are involved in youth soccer in this province. Firstly, what exactly is the BCSA's position on this? Does the Association support the Whitecaps pursuing this policy change at the MLS - considering they are "partners" in player development in this province? Was the BCSA aware that the Whitecaps were pursuing the removal of this Canadian player quota (which will hinder Canadian born player access to the MLS)? Lastly, will the BCSA be continuing to embed the Whitecaps in its player development model in light of these new developments?
In the past, I have voiced my opposition to the union between Whitecaps FC and the BCSA. It is a very unique and unusual situation to have a single professional club so deeply involved in a football association. I would hazard to guess that this type of relationship exists nowhere else in the world and likely will not be duplicated (only in Canada as they say.....).
The announcement of this quota removal only surfaced last week and yet almost immediately thereafter, Victor Montagliani, Vice-President of the CSA, voiced his criticism in the media of the two Canadian professional teams. While I don't agree with everything Victor said in regards to this issue, I do applaud him for providing some instant feedback on the CSA's position. Sadly, there’s been nothing but silence from our provincial association. Hopefully, the BCSA Membership and all others who support player development in this province will be given an opportunity to hear the association’s thoughts and position on this soon.