Canadian Soccer Still Growing

CSA Annual Report shows Canadian soccer's direction
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, May 09, 2013

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams


That is the number of women and men playing soccer in Canada, making it the biggest participatory sport in the country.

Given that 698,905 of those players are under 18 years old (about 82%), there’s an exceptionally high potential for growing the game.

These numbers come from the Annual Report released by the Canadian Soccer Association last week. There are, however, several other interesting pieces of information in it. It might be not be news to everyone, but the information is important to focus on nonetheless.

Mostly importantly, the CSA continues to be very reliant on membership fees, which acts as the largest source of income for the association at 34%, in spite of government grants, sponsorships and growing gate receipts/appearance fees.

The 22% increase in sponsorship money is a great measuring stick for the development of the game. Companies sponsor organizations in order to get exposure to the general population, and as sponsorship increases in value, this indicates that more and more people follow the Canadian national teams. This idea is, however, also supported by a rise in gate receipts and attention on social media.

But it is easy to fear that the continued dependence on membership fees is making it more expensive than necessary for kids and adults. Obviously things won’t change from day to day. As the other revenue streams improve, limiting membership fees should be a focus area for the CSA. This will grow the sport, which should improve the national teams and attract more corporate support, leading to a positive upward spiral for Canadian soccer.

Another area that merits attention is the gender gap that still exists in soccer. Almost half the players (41.9 %) are female, but only about 25% of the coaches and referees are women.

I am not calling for quotas or affirmative action, but merely a strong effort by the CSA to encourage women and girls to stay within the game despite finishing their playing careers.

This should also include female referees and coaches in the men’s game. If the skills are there, women shouldn’t be kept away from refereeing or coaching men’s soccer. Widening the pool of potential candidates and allowing for more opportunities should only help drive a better development of the game.

All in all, the report shows both the progress of and difficulties for soccer in Canada. It won’t be perfect tomorrow, but it can be done.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.