Yellow carded

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

A local exhibition soccer match has been shown a yellow card by the Canadian Soccer Association.

Officials with soccer's national governing body say next week's Legends of Soccer exhibition event at the Saddledome needs to be sanctioned and that local players who participate risk being suspended from their CSA leagues.

Event organizer Howard Silver is outraged and thinks the CSA is way offside.

"We're going ahead with the event anyway," Silver said yesterday.

"The advice from our lawyers is that these guys are overstepping their boundaries."

The Jan. 23 tournament is privately funded and will showcase Liverpool and Manchester United masters teams plus two local select squads. The event was planned as a fundraiser for local soccer groups, Silver said.

"What the (CSA) has done is stepped in and demanded the money now go to Ottawa and not stay in the local community," he said. "To me, that just smells of a money grab."

Any event sanctioned by the CSA is required to return 5.5% of its gross earnings to the national governing body in Ottawa, plus give another 2.5% to the Alberta Soccer Association.

Silver insists there's nothing in the CSA rules that says his event must be sanctioned.

"We don't believe this is a sanctionable soccer tournament because obviously we've got pretty abbreviated, silly rules," said Silver. "We're not using official nets and we're not playing on a field. It's just a soccer exhibition."

That doesn't matter, says CSA CEO Kevan Pipe.

"Any organization in Canada that wishes to stage matches must follow our rules and regulations," Pipe said from Ottawa yesterday. "It's just standard operating procedure."

According to Silver, CSA officials only stepped in when they heard how well the event was selling.

About 6,000 tickets have been sold and promoters are expecting more than 10,000 people to be on hand to watch such retired Euro soccer stars as Phil Neal, Chris Waddle, Vivian Anderson and Frank Stapleton.

Vern Gerhardt, executive director of the ASA, denied the event recently came to their attention.

"We've been in touch with Mr. Silver for quite some time now," said Gerhardt. "This process has been ongoing and we've contacted him about sanctioning this event many times."

Gerhardt said he is thrilled the event is coming to Calgary and thinks it's a great idea to raise some funds for the youth and adult programs in this province.

He added the ASA has agreed to give any money earned back to the Calgary Soccer Association.

"Of course, we want this event to happen. It will be great fun for everyone involved," said Gerhardt.

"What's at dispute is that we have rules as an association and the CSA, which we are part of, feels this falls under their jurisdiction."

Silver maintains, as of yesterday, he hadn't seen documentation that would require the event to be sanctioned.

But Pipe said the English Football Association "confirmed that this organization was indeed under their jurisdiction.

"They advised us in writing that in order for a team to compete in Canada, they would have to, like any other team in England, need to receive permission from their governing body and ours to play in this country."

Gerhardt said local players have been informed by letter they will face punishment if they participate in a non-sanctioned event.


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