If the CSL had any shred of credibility left it may have lost it on Tuesday morning as they vowed that they would take any actions necessary to overturn the CSA's decision to de-sanction the league including going ahead with their 2013 season as an unsanctioned league.
It seems that rather than trying to come up with solutions for the issues that plague the league they are set to try and play hard ball with the CSA and go rogue if it comes to that. The league responded to the CSA with a press release this morning having seemingly not gotten the response they were looking for from the 16 page letter that they sent to the governing body at the end of February.
The exchanges between the league and the CSA are available on the CSL's website for anyone that is interested in reading both the official letter from the CSA informing the league about its de-sanctioning and the lengthy response for the league.
In all of it there is still no acknowledgement that the league is facing serious issues with match fixing (their official position remains that the CBC was erroneous in their reports about the league) or the fact that in recent years it has been made quite clear that many clubs in the league are not meeting the standards that the CSA sets out for a division three league. There were plenty of reasons why the CSL could have been stripped of its sanctioning but the one that the CSA provided in their letter was that having ratified the recommendations of the Easton Report (also referred to as the Rethink Management Report) they would no longer be sanctioning the league.
The response from the CSL was that their league should have been a part of the implementation of the report's recommendations as they have "for many years been planning expansion on a regional basis across Canada, very much along the same lines recommended in the James Easton report." The release goes on to state, "the CSL fully supports the regionally-based concept for Canadian soccer that James Easton has advanced in his report. It is consistent with our vision for the growth of the CSL, and for the development of pro soccer in Canada. What we cannot tolerate, however, is the immediate implementation at any cost. This direction has been acted upon prematurely."
That part of the reply is all well and good as it should be but the problem is that the CSA is right to de-sanction the league regardless of what the Easton Report recommended. The CSL is facing serious issues that they are choosing not to face so for the CSA to continue sanctioning them or even worse to build a new national league around them would be a move with disastrous consequences.
The rest of the reply from the CSL focused on the fact that they were not given proper notice that the CSA was considering making this move, that they were not included in the discussions, and accusing the CSA of breaking its own by-laws while neglecting to provide the CSL with basic fairness.
It seems that the CSL intends to try and drag this issue into a public mudslinging which hopefully the CSA will be smart enough to avoid. With the league being clear about its intentions for 2013 it will be crucial that the CSA stands by its decision and makes clear the consequences for those who continue to associate with the league should it choose to go ahead without sanctioning in 2013.
The final paragraph of the press release from the league is quite telling of just how they intend to go forward from here: "Make no mistake about it, our 2013 CSL season will take place whatever the CSA decides to do in response to our letter," Mr. Jazbec said. "We haven't been in business as a fixture of Canadian pro soccer for the past 87 years just to meekly fold the tents when our governing body acts in a manner we consider to be fundamentally unreasonable, unlawful and unfair. We hope that common sense will prevail, but we are ready to take whatever actions are necessary to defend our rights, our league and the commercial viability of our member clubs."
If the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC academies were not already planning on playing elsewhere in 2013 this would certainly be a serious problem for both clubs. It seems that they have cut their ties with the league just in time to avoid really being dragged down into what is promising to be quite the mess.
For now Toronto FC has not made public any plans for where their senior academy sides will be playing in 2013 but it is clear that they will no longer be in the CSL. They may be forced to be without a home and rely on tournaments and exhibition play this summer while they wait for Ontario's League One to get up and running.
The story around the CSL will remain one to follow but at least now it seems that both Toronto FC and the Canadian Soccer Association have made the wise decision to distance themselves from the league and look to move forward with something better.