London women given NCAA clearance

KATHY RUMLESKI -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

The U.S. National Collegiate Athletic Association believes players on London City's new women's team won't jeopardize American college athletic scholarships.

The NCAA's Kent Barrett says his office has only received information recently on plans for the women's division of the Canadian Professional Soccer League but it doesn't appear to break amateur legislation.

"Our understanding is this particular league is amateur and people are not being paid above necessary and actual expenses," Barrett said this week.

"No one on each particular team is professional, which would be another stipulation."

Even though the women's division is the brainchild of the CPSL, the men's league is downplaying its role.

"There's no real association with the CPSL. The CPSL is just there as a backer," said City's women's division manager Ryan Gauss.

The City squad will play against six other districts in a women's Canada Cup tournament, similar to the one the CPSL holds for men.

"The CPSL is involved to some extent, but it is an amateur situation for NCAA bylaws," said the league's Stan Adamson. "The district associations are involved."

City would play under the Elgin Middlesex Soccer Association banner. Its first home game is scheduled for June 13.

EMSA chair Bill Spence said no approval has been sought yet for the tournament but he would support it.

"Me personally, I don't have problems with it," he said.

Derek van der Merwe, associate athletic director at Central Michigan University in charge of compliance, said he has been looking into the matter because one of the women on the school's soccer team, Laura Roberts, will be playing for City.

Roberts is a London native.

"I feel comfortable with our student-athlete participating," van der Merwe said. "It seems like everything is on board."

Gauss said he's been fielding a lot of questions about the scholarship issue.

"There are so many people speaking who don't know the whole story," he said. "There are a lot of doubters out there. We're just trying to put their mind at ease."

Gauss said the team looked into the NCAA rules surrounding amateur status before recruiting players.

"I couldn't sleep at night if I knew a girl lost her scholarship."

The CPSL continues to seek NCAA bylaw exemption status for a couple of its men's teams, including London City.

"The NCAA and CPSL sat down and chatted about this. The league was going to go back to its board of directors to see if it could reclassify certain teams so their players wouldn't trigger that part of the NCAA legislation," Barrett said.

CPSL commissioner Cary Kaplan said his league would also need to change Ontario Soccer Association bylaws about what constitutes a professional league.

"This is an ongoing process . . . to try to build a stronger relationship with the governing bodies and make sure they have a full understanding and appreciation for pro soccer," Kaplan said.

He said it would be in everybody's best interest if City was declared an amateur club.

Kaplan, appointed commissioner earlier this month, said the issue is one of his priorities.


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