ASC president predicts ‘devastating’ financial impact without fans
Nick Bontis laughs when asked about his work schedule
Bontis, who turns 52 on May 27, is juggling his role as president of Canada Soccer and his day job as an associate professor at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University.
âI laughed because I had no idea how much work I would be doing,â Bontis said. “But it’s fun, it’s exhilarating. It’s two full-time jobs, I have to be honest with you.”
“When I was first elected in November, there really wasn’t much going on in November or December. But by January, oh my God, it was 24 hours a day every day.” , he added. âCrisis management is one way to describe it. But when you send a national team to Florida for the first time in the midst of a COVID pandemic, there are so many rules, so many processes. have never hadâ¦ done before, obviously. “
He called it a âbaptism of fire,â given the ever-changing rules and regulations of the various countries that Canadian players call home.
Canadian teams have learned, sharing best practices, and Bontis is proud that Canada Soccer has only had two positive tests out of 1,726 COVID tests since January in its “controlled environment” (both from people traveling to camp) .
Bontis chooses to see opportunities in a crisis, saying the pandemic has given Canada Soccer “an opportunity to reset the soccer business, if you will, for the country.”
Part of this is collecting feedback from the football community. Canada Soccer is asking those interested in sharing to complete a survey (via www.canadasoccer.com) by May 31 to help determine priorities before finalizing its 2022-2026 strategic plan.
Although Canada Soccer has already solicited opinions, Bontis says this poll is important because of the financial impact of COVID-19.
âThere is not the possibility of investing in every thing that we wanted to invest in,â he said. “I mean, let’s be honest. We’re going to have to choose. The priorities have to be recovery, at least in the short term.”
Bontis recognizes that the break in the game is taking longer than expected.
“It’s frustrating. I don’t pretend to be a medical professional, but if you look at other parts of the world, they’ve opened up, âhe said.
Bontis, a member of the Western Mustangs Sports Hall of Fame, played his last indoor club game on March 11, 2020, the night before sports closed. Father of two, his boys were unable to continue at the Toronto FC academy due to health issues,
âWe would have hoped the outdoor season would have been OK,â he said. âBut it’s not just football, obviously. There are frustrations with people who play golf, there are obviously frustrations with people who play tennis. And frankly, those two sports don’t even no bodily contact.
“It’s a source of frustration but we have always done what the health authorities told us. And that is what we will continue to do.”
The soccer menu varies across the country.
While the game is starting up again in Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, elsewhere it is mostly a model of waiting. The hope is that this will change sooner or later.
Canada Soccer says the pandemic resulted in a 41% reduction in revenue in 2020. Player fees were only 17% of revenue – normally they would be around a third.
The bad news will continue for a while.
âThese are late blows of the financial crisis that we have to face,â Bontis said. “I’m not going to tell you that the other buckets (largely the sponsors and the government) are healthier, because they’re not.”
Canada Soccer has joined forces with Curling Canada, Hockey Canada, Rugby Canada, Skate Canada and Tennis Canada to call on the federal government for a $ 75 million sport recovery program to support local and local initiatives for all shocked sports of the pandemic.
âI feel for the government,â Bontis said. “There are a million different stakeholders. Everyone is asking for help. So we have to be patient and stand in line and get our support when that happens.”
The first goal of Canada Soccer is to return to where the organization was before the pandemic.
“It will not be an easy task. It will take us some time. It could maybe take us a few years to get back to 2019 levels,” Bontis said. “The ultimate goal is to surpass these levels as we approach 2026, using the dynamics of (co-) hosting a World Cup.”
Postponing national team activity to 2020 halved program and organizational costs. Canada Soccer reduced its workweek to four days to further reduce costs, although its staff essentially continued to work the same hours.
The eighth-seeded Canadians are gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics, seeking a medal for the third straight Games after back-to-back bronzes.
The men, ranked 70th, conclude the first round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying matches against Aruba and Suriname in June. The hope is for Canada to win its group and advance to a second-round round-trip playoff, also in June, with Haiti the likely opponent.
A win there and the Canadians will reach the Octagon, the region’s final qualifying round.
“I believe that if women do well in the Olympics and our men do well in the Octagon, it will produce a nice halo effect to help improve the health of grassroots football where it was before the pandemic,” said Bontis.
Canada has been unable to host national team games at home due to border restrictions and other issues related to the pandemic. It hit the bottom line.
Putting 20,000 fans at $ 25 per head at BMO Field translates to a gateway of $ 500,000.
âIt would be devastating for us if this continues all the way to the Octagon,â Bontis said.
With seven guaranteed home games and top-tier opposition like Mexico and the United States, the Octagon – set to run from September 2021 to March 2022 – would help fill the coffers of Canada Soccer. Assuming fans are allowed in and want to come.
While the sport has stalled at home, Canadian soccer has been at the forefront abroad with Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich), Jonathan David (Lille), Scott Arfield (Rangers), Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) and Atiba. Hutchinson and Cyle Larin (Besiktas) are making the headlines.
On the women’s side, Kadeisha Buchanan (Lyon), Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Janine Beckie (Manchester City), Stephanie Labbe (Rosengard FC), Alyssa Lagonia (Servette FCCF) and Cloe Lacasse (Benfica) have all been involved in the 2020-21 UEFA Women’s Champions League.
âHere we are with an abundance of wealth in the midst of a lockdown pandemic,â Bontis said.
A member of the Board of Directors of Canada Soccer since 2012, Bontis has already succeeded in changing the face of his leadership.
The recent Annual Membership Meeting saw the election of former track star Charmaine Crooks as confirmed vice-president. Hall of Famer Brittany Timko Baxter joined the 14-person board, alongside Charisse Bacchus and Stephanie Geosits, bringing the total, including Kelly Brown, to five directors in office.
Another goal is to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Canada, with Bontis saying the country is “open for business” in this regard.
“But at the end of the day, it’s the private investors who make this decision,” he said. âI, my board, (General Secretary) Peter Montopoli and the rest of the staff, have been very active in talking to potential investors for an NWSL franchise. In the short term, within the next two years, I hope that we can at least achieve that goal. “
He hopes that one Canadian team will lead another, as it did in Major League Soccer.