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Rebuilding trust a top priority for new Canada Soccer CEO Kevin Blue | CBC Sports

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Kevin Blue, Canada Soccer’s new general secretary and CEO, acknowledged Monday the governing body’s need “to rebuild trust” with the soccer community.

“There’s been some things that have happened over a period of time that haven’t reflected positively on the organization,” he told a virtual availability.

“We have a lot of work to do to rebuild trust, frankly,” he added. “That’s just what it is and that’s a reality and I accept that responsibility. And part of what I hope to do is show folks that I’m willing to listen, that I’m willing to connect, that I’m willing to learn, that I’m willing to be straightforward with people.”

Blue said while rebuilding trust will take time, “it’s certainly something that I’m acutely aware of the importance of us doing that if we’re going to be effective and have leadership credibility moving forward.”

The 41-year-old former Golf Canada executive, in his first news conference, promised “a direct, steady and professional approach.”

Labour dispute, financial model on to-do list

But as perhaps one might expect of someone just days into the job, Blue was short on answers.

That included how to resolve the lengthy labour dispute with the national men’s and women’s team and ease the financial shackles of the existing agreement with Canadian Soccer Business covering corporate partnerships and broadcast rights.

Canada Soccer is believed to receive some $4 million a year currently under the deal as “the beneficiary of a rights fee guarantee.” That amount has been boosted by some $500,000 each year leading up to the 2026 World Cup.

The players have complained the agreement is holding the game back and preventing national teams from getting the preparation they need. Blue said he has already had an introductory meeting with CSB officials.

The Canadian Soccer Players’ Association, which represents the Canadian women’s team, has filed a $40-million lawsuit against 15 current and former board members of Canada Soccer, alleging “negligence and breach of fiduciary duty.”

Blue said there needs to be a “fixing and refinement” of Canada Soccer’s financial model.

“That’s, of course, tied into what I believe is a broader opportunity, which is to build frankly a more effective commercial and philanthropic structure for the entire sport in the country.”

He said there are “several financial misalignments that need to be addressed,” he said.

Blue denied the organization faces bankruptcy over the next year.

And he tried to look forward not back, saying “the continuations of old conversations is part but not all of what we need to be focusing on going forward.”

Search for new men’s coach

He offered little new on the search for a permanent men’s coach, having said previously in a short statement that it was “major priority for our organization.” Mauro Biello is currently serving as interim coach.

Blue’s availability came the same day Nike unveiled the Canadian teams’ new kit, which the 50th-ranked Canadian men will debut Saturday in Frisco, Texas, in a high-stakes Copa America playoff with No. 96 Trinidad and Tobago.

The winner will slot into Group A with top-ranked Argentina, No. 33 Peru and No. 42 Chile at this summer’s Copa America.

Blue started on the job last Thursday but had already got off to a flying start, visiting San Diego to see the Canadian women at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, issuing a number of statements and communicating with some 200 interested parties.

Prior to Golf Canada, where he served as chief sport officer from December 2020, Blue was athletics director at the University of California, Davis, a job he started in May 2016. Before that, he was senior associate director of athletics at Stanford University, his alma mater.

That involved overseeing 36 teams at Stanford and 25 at UC-Davis.

While noting his sports background, Blue said he had much to learn and would be surrounding himself “with the right type of football expertise to help us navigate the sports-specific portions of our responsibilities.”

Constant change

Canada Soccer initially hired Alyson Walker as its new general secretary only to have the former MLSE executive step down, citing personal reasons, before her first day on the job.

Change has been a constant at Canada Soccer since longtime general secretary Peter Montopoli stepped down to run Canada’s end of the 2026 World Cup for FIFA. Earl Cochrane took over as acting general secretary in January 2022 and was given the job on a permanent basis in July 2022.

Cochrane left the organization last April, following president Nick Bontis who resigned in February 2023 acknowledging change was needed to achieve labour peace.

Former Canada captain Jason de Vos left his position as Canada Soccer’s director of development to take over as interim general secretary and was a candidate for the permanent job, but quit the organization in early January to join Toronto FC’s coaching staff after Walker was hired.

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