Two sides to every story

We all want the same thing

On Monday, I wrote a story based on my conversation with several current and former staff members at the CanPL. That article talked about the corporate culture at the league’s head office from the perspective of those that I spoke to.

You can read the full article here, but the long and short of it was that those voices felt that there needed to be a greater diversity of thought at the senior leadership levels of the league.

I repeated an oft heard and flippant criticism of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) that was based on the location (Hamilton) and background (CFL) of certain members of the SLT. I wasn’t pulling that comparison out of thin air -- it’s legitimately felt by a lot people that there is a lot of control held by those in that fit that description.

It’s said that perception is reality and in the CanPL’s case the perception is that the power is held by a select few people that share the orbit of a very powerful owner in Bob Young, who is very much associated with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL.

It’s worth exploring why that perception exists, but it’s also fair to consider the other side of things here.

Based on a few conversations I’ve had over the last 36-hours, including a text exchange with a member of the league’s SLT, I want revisit a few things from Monday’s article to put a more balanced spin on it.

The first area I want to speak to is the framing of the article around Hamilton.

In my writing, I’m often guilty of being too cute by half – it’s a product of having spent most of my professional life writing for the internet where style is often more rewarded than substance. Stylistically, that’s fine when I’m writing about a July game between Valour and Cavalry, but when reporting on the business dealings of the league a more professional tone should be struck.

So, I’m going to hold my hand up here and apologize for being too flippant in both the title of the article (By Hamilton, For Hamilton) and in using the term “Hamilton Mafia” to describe the feeling that the power circle was too small. Moving forward, I will not use that term again. I urge others to be more thoughtful in their use of it as well, as it does hit a lot of ugly stereotypes about the city that we should not be promoting.

The use of those terms ultimately undermines the point I was attempting to make, which is that the SLT would benefit from having a greater diversity of voices. I’m not backing away from that – one glaring example here is that there are no women listed on the public SLT page (although those in the office say that Micki Benedetti should be listed on the page and that the website is simply outdated). Additionally, the voice of the player’s should be somehow included in a more substantial way. In general, I feel that there would be benefit to expanding the voices at the table and, based on my dealings with other s who have an interest in the league, I’m not alone in that feeling.

As it relates to the CFL, I’ll accept the rebuttal I received from a league executive last night. They argued that in reality only two voices at the SLT came directly from the CFL and that it was “absurd” to suggest that there was undue influence in the CanPL from the CFL.

I want to stress that word “more” here. As I wrote Monday, no one is calling for anyone’s head here, nor is anyone questioning the motivations of the leadership. We all want the same thing – for the CanPL grow and thrive and offer a place for the Canadian player (hopefully men and women one day) to do the same. The conversation we are having here is about process.

In pro sport ego can often get in the way to seeing the full truth in any situation. People get entrenched into their positions and defend them at all costs without considering the other side (I’m including myself and my tiny role in this). That defensiveness can prevent growth.  

I see this in some of my conversations with so-called “soccer people” who call for the league to have more people with institutional knowledge of Canadian soccer at the SLT. They are right that there should be some – and there is – but I get the feeling in those conversations that what some people are looking for is that there “only” be soccer people running the league.

The fact that this country launched its pro league more than 100 years after the establishment of the CSA would suggest that the “soccer people” had plenty of time to put their stamp on things and, well, here we are. So, please don’t mistake my advocating for a greater diversity of voices at the table with me desiring that only those who can curl a free kick should be involved.    

A lot of hard work has happened to get the league to the point that it is at now. Additionally, many people – Bob Young chief among them – have put their money on the line in a way that few have in the past.

That is appreciated. But, it does no one any good to not continue to push for the league to be better and more inclusive. That desire to see Canadian soccer successful will continue to drive me to challenge those in power to be the best they can be.

I look forward to the conversations.  

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