Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli speaks at a press confrence at BMO Field in Toronto, Monday February 26, 2018. Canada Soccer has cancelled a planned women's national team camp this month in England.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

Canada Soccer calls off planned women’s national team camp in England due to COVID

Canada Soccer calls off planned women’s national team camp in England due to COVID

TORONTO — On the advice of medical experts, Canada Soccer has cancelled a planned women’s national team camp this month in England.

Roster invitations were sent out, but then the trip was called off. The Canadian women, currently ranked eighth in the world, were to have played No. 6 England in their first get-together since a March tournament in France just prior to the lockdown.

“We listened to our federal public health officials and authorities, who offered us guidance,” said Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli. “And in the end, they were instructing us not to travel. We listened to them.”

Like other national sports bodies, the Canadian Soccer Association has taken a body blow because of COVID-19.

Revenue could be cut in half in 2020.

Montopoli is anticipating $12 million to $14 million less in revenue this year. The association’s normal operating budget features annual revenue of $22 million to $25 million, he said in an interview.

The drop has come from everything from the lack of recreational player dues to the loss of home international matches.

“It’s fair to say we’re going to be faced with some tough decisions the longer this goes, as any NSO (national sports organization),” Montopoli said.

“What competitions are we committing to? What programs are we committing to?” he added. “Certainly the priority for Canada Soccer moving forward … will be our senior teams, no doubt about it.”

The association, which has a staff of 50 to 55, has not laid off any employees. Staff are officially working four days a week, with an accompanying reduction in pay, although they continue to work longer hours.

The association was able to take advantage of the Canadian Employee Wage Subsidy program. But it also had to use surplus funds saved over the last decade to help in times of crisis.

“We never wanted to use the surplus in that fashion, but that’s what it’s there for. So we’ve been lucky enough to keep everybody employed. I’m proud of that in these difficult times,” said Montopoli.

The search continues for a women’s head coach to succeed Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who has returned to his native Denmark. Montopoli says while the pandemic has complicated the talent hunt, Canada Soccer is close to filling the position.

“Sometimes (getting) the right person takes a little extra time,” he said.

While FIFA international match windows have been closing due to the pandemic, men’s coach John Herdman is still holding out hope he may be able to stage a camp in Europe in November for European-based players and in North America in January for domestic talent ahead of hoped-for World Cup qualifiers in March.

But the sands are ever shifting due to COVID.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2020

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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