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Canada Soccer hires Golf Canada executive Kevin Blue as CEO, general secretary | CBC Sports



Canada Soccer has turned to the world of golf to find its new general secretary and CEO.

Kevin Blue comes from Golf Canada, where he has served as chief sport officer since December 2020.

Previously Blue was athletics director at the University of California, Davis, a job he started in May 2016 when he was just 33. Before that he was senior associate director of athletics at Stanford University, his alma mater.

At UC Davis, Blue oversaw a $42-million athletic department featuring 25 collegiate teams.

Canada Soccer’s revenue for 2022 was $47.6 million, which was up $14.2 million over the previous year due to a jump in FIFA and CONCACAF grants with the 2026 World Cup looming,

Blue is scheduled to take up his new position on March 14.

“In Kevin, we have a transformational and results-oriented leader on our team to help guide us towards a more positive future for soccer in Canada and to capture the incredible opportunities ahead,” Canada Soccer president Charmaine Crooks said in a statement.

In a video released by Canada Soccer, Blue acknowledged he was a “newcomer” to the Canadian soccer community and promised to “work diligently to earn your trust.”

He also said Canada Soccer will “look in the mirror and make the reforms necessary to be able to govern and operate our federation with the exemplary professionalism that is necessary for us to take advantage of upcoming opportunities and to solve some of our challenges that we have going on.”

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he added.

Unlike Walker, Blue also gets the title of CEO — the first time Canada Soccer has filled that position. Kevan Pipe, who worked at Canada Soccer from 1985 to 2006, doubled as general secretary and chief operating officer.

Mathieu Chamberland is the current COO.

Born in Montreal, Blue was raised in Toronto. The father of four, who lives in Mississauga, Ont., holds a B.A. in psychology from Stanford, where he was captain of the golf team and an academic all-American, and a Ph.D. in sport psychology from Michigan State University.

Fills longtime void

His hiring fills a void at the governing body of Canadian soccer.

Alyson Walker, whose resume includes stints with Bell Media, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, was named general secretary in late December. But she stepped down Jan. 22, her previously announced start date, due to an “unforeseen personal matter.”

Canada Soccer says more than 200 candidates were identified throughout the four-month search process conducted by consulting firm Korn Ferry that led to Walker’s hiring.

Walker was due to succeed Earl Cochrane, who stepped down last April.

The general secretary vacancy has impacted Canada Soccer’s search for a permanent coach for the men’s national team. Canada Soccer announced last year that the coaching hire would follow the general secretary’s appointment.

Mauro Biello has served as interim coach since John Herdman resigned in August to take over Major League Soccer club Toronto FC. Biello will be in charge in March when the Canadian men take on Trinidad and Tobago in Frisco, Texas, in a high-stakes playoff with a berth in this summer’s Copa America on the line.

For years, the general secretary job, described as Canada Soccer’s operational leader, belonged to Peter Montopoli.

He took over as general secretary in April 2008 after two years as national event director for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada. But Montopoli stepped down in late 2021 to become chief operating officer for Canada FIFA World Cup 2026, overseeing the Canadian end of the tournament for FIFA.

Earl Cochrane, who had held a variety of Canada Soccer roles over two stints dating back to 2001, was named acting general secretary and took over the job on a permanent basis in July 2022 following an “extensive global recruitment process.”

Cochrane resigned last April, following former president Nick Bontis in leaving Canada Soccer against the backdrop of the lengthy, bitter labour dispute with the men’s and women’s national teams.

Bontis resigned his elected position in February 2023, acknowledging change was needed to achieve labour peace.

Cochrane said he had his own reasons for leaving, saying the decision “was personal in many respects, about me looking out for me.”

Inherits labour battle

Former national team captain Jason deVos, who previously was Canada Soccer’s director of development, took over the general secretary job on an interim basis.

Walker’s hire was followed by deVos leaving Canada Soccer to become an assistant coach under Herdman at Toronto FC.

The new general secretary inherits a lengthy labour battle that has seen both the men’s and women’s teams resort to job action and Canada Soccer coming under fire at the House of Common’s Heritage Committee. At issue is Canada Soccer’s controversial long-term agreement with Canadian Soccer Business which holds its marketing and broadcast rights,

Cash-strapped Canada Soccer is believed to be receiving $4 million a year under the deal as “the beneficiary of a rights fee guarantee.” It is attempting to renegotiate the agreement, which includes an additional $500,000 to be paid out per year ahead of the 2026 FIFA men’s World Cup, which Canada is co-hosting

Citing the CSB deal, the association representing the Canadian women’s team recently filed a $40-million lawsuit against 15 current and former board members of Canada Soccer alleging “negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.”

The 10th-ranked women, who formed the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association in 2016, have been without a labour deal since the last one expired at the end of 2021. They have struck an agreement in principle with Canada Soccer on compensation for 2022 and an interim deal for 2023 covering the World Cup but are essentially waiting on the men to settle given the two deals are linked via equal pay.

The 50th-ranked men, who organized in the summer of 2022 as the Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association, are working on their first formal labour agreement.

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