Canada won't build a serious World Cup team strictly on good intentions by volunteers, nomadic native players, slapdash funding and disunified provincial associations.
Those areas are what Canadian Soccer Association president Colin Linford hopes to fix by hiring the CSA's first chief executive officer, Ancaster businessman Fred Nykamp.
"In 2011, Canadian soccer will be 100 years old, but we've never had a plan," Linford said yesterday as he introduced Nykamp at BMO Field.
"This will change the way we do our business and governance."
Earlier yesterday, Nykamp resigned from Basketball Canada, where he had spent three years as executive director, overseeing much of the infrastructure he wants to bring to the CSA. Prior to that job, he held executive positions with various companies such as Hanes and Sara Lee.
Soccer, with an estimated 850,000 players across the country and an annual growth rate of 8% to 10%, has strong grassroots.
But putting any kind of credible national side in place has dogged the CSA since the last qualification for the World Cup in 1986. While trying to avoid grandiose statements, Nykamp said qualifying for 2010 in South Africa is "do-able".
"We can't yet create pools of high-performance athletes," Nykamp said of the widely dispersed talent around Canada, the U.S. and Europe. "We don't have the influence to call them to play for their country, unlike hockey."
But a new stadium (BMO), a Major League Soccer team (Toronto FC) and perhaps a new training base and more MLS expansion could make it more lucrative to stay home.
Linford said 60% of CSA revenues come from provincial sources such as registration fees. Nykamp, chosen from an original list of 110 names to replace COO Kevan Pipe, will be counted on to utilize his business and sponsorship connections and his knowledge of government funding policy.
Linford's timing is excellent as big business is plugging into soccer's potential as a revenue vehicle. There also is going to be hype for the FIFA World under-20 World Cup, being played at BMO and in five other Canadian cities in July.
"You used to lose money on FIFA games in Canada," Linford said.
"Now with a national stadium in the media centre of the country, we can put money in the envelope for the national team."
Linford said he and Nykamp have a challenge ahead to form a general development and business plan for the various provincial associations.
Nykamp plans to spend the next year "smoking a few peace pipes" with the provincial associations.