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Football Canada pulls plug on senior national team
Posted: April 30th, 2015 @ 4:50pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
Canada will not be represented at July’s International Federation of American Football world championship.
Football Canada made the call late Wednesday to pull the plug on the team that won the silver medal at the last tournament, four years ago.
“We weren’t able to pull a team together,” Shannon Donovan, executive director of Football Canada, said Thursday. “It’s pretty disappointing.”
The team held tryouts in December and invitations were sent to a number of players, including former Queen’s Golden Gael Scott Valberg of Kingston—a member of Canada’s 2011 team in Austria—but those invitations carried a codicil: Each player had to come up with $2,500 to subsidize their own participation.
It became apparent in early March, Donovan said, that the financial element was limiting the number of players who were prepared to commit.
“There’s the money side of it,” Donovan said, “but they have to take three weeks away from work, so there’s a time commitment, too.
“In 2011 we struggled when we put the team together. We ended up getting it done but this time it was just not happening. We were just not getting any commitment.”
A lot of potential players, she said, hesitated because they’ll be trying out for Canadian Football League teams and they were unsure whether they’d be available. “We had to make a decision before all those players knew (whether) they’d be released,” she said.
The Northern Football Conference, a senior amateur league based largely in Ontario, was at one point asked to put a team together but the Ontario Football Alliance squawked. The alliance, which represents the province with Football Canada and overseas provincial and regional youth programs, does not number the NFC among its members.
Efforts to assemble a team by other means were unsuccessful.
“We exhausted a lot of avenues,” Donovan said.
To form a team for the next world championship, in 2019, will involve looking at “other options” to recruit players, she added.
“The senior men’s program is a difficult one,” she said, listing a number of impediments to forming a team, such as professional leagues in Canada and the U.S. playing at the same time; the fact that players just emerging from university likely don’t have that kind money available, and, if they’re going to new jobs, won’t have the leverage to get time off almost before they start.
“Until it’s recognized as an Olympic sport, or there’s the CFL, CIS, NFL and NCAA on board supporting it, we have to look at the amateur side … the various men’s leagues that are taking place.
“It’s like the NHL. If the NHL didn’t support the Olympics, Hockey Canada would have to look at different avenues to put a team on the ice.”
Football Canada might also put more effort into recruiting Canadians playing in Europe.
“It’s kind of an off-season, but it’s not really an off-season (in North America). The European leagues are mostly guys who are done playing in the CFL and CIS, and their leagues shut down for this event.”
Oddly, the financial woes arose after the tournament was moved from Sweden to Canton, Ohio. That reduced the cost, Donovan said, but also the attraction.
“It’s a little more incentive when you’re going to Europe for three weeks,” she said, “and the Canadian dollar not being the greatest doesn’t help, either.”
The world championship has been held every four years since it began in 1999. There are 54 countries in the federation, 12 of which were scheduled to participate in this year’s tournament, though four European teams withdrew when the tournament was moved out of Sweden.
Canada has participated just once.