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Canada's new soccer chief sets sights on World Cup

Victor Montagliani.

Canadian Soccer Association/Canadian Soccer Association

When Victor Montagliani won election as president of the Canadian Soccer Association, he declared a new era to go along with the new regime.

The culture he promises to bring to the Canadian game will be both player-oriented and business-oriented, Montagliani says. It may see the Canadian men's team return to the World Cup, rather than being a constant also-ran.

"The priority has to be the player," said Montagliani, who has been a CSA vice-president for three terms and a member of the CSA executive committee since 2005.

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"Too many of our structures have a 'legal' mentality, sort of like government," he said in a telephone conference. Too often, a decision needs to be made "but those responsible are handcuffed by 3 million committees ... . That doesn't translate well in terms of international football and how decisions have to be made ... . So we need to change the culture and become more entrepreneurial," the new president said.

Decisions will be consistent, transparent and they will be efficient, said Montagliani, who also said he would streamline the running of the sport by separating operations from governance. "You change the culture and surround yourself with professionals."

Montagliani, a businessman from Burnaby, B.C., is the CSA's 33rd president. He has been elected for a four-year term, following one of the most turbulent eras in international and Olympic sport, marked by doping, match fixing, and calls for transparency.

He said in a telephone conference Tuesday he would demonstrate leadership and work at cleaning house domestically. As a start, the CSA's board is eliminating 12 provincial and territorial presidents – cutting back on time spent haggling over regional agendas – replacing them with national directors and three appointees this summer. Two of the appointees will be women, Montagliani said, to address a gender gap, and one will represent pro clubs.

"Governance is not simply about management. It requires leadership, passion and a burning desire to deliver excellent outcomes for the CSA," Montagliani said in a statement. "Leadership is about service, and I am ready to serve."

Rob Newman, another CSA vice-president, was also running for the presidency, while outgoing president Dominique Maestracci withdrew his candidacy for re-election. Montagliani, though he has run businesses for 21 years, got known as "the soccer guy" in the campaign, as opposed to getting credit for his business acumen. "But if it connotes passion and dedication for the game, I'll take it any day for the week," he said.

Montagliani backs a quota system on Canadian-based pro franchises – at least three players per pro team in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver – to help develop pro players. Montagliani made his feelings clear on the Canadian quota issue, telling Canadian Soccer News: "I'm in the business of developing Canadian players and not in the business of developing American players."

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Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto sought the elimination of the quota this season in the professional MLS, but the CSA lobbied to have its Canadian clubs revisit that issue.

He's an optimist when it comes to player development. "It's happened with other countries ... the Japan women's program, they were planning to do well in 2014. Well, low and behold, with some focus and resourcing, they won the women's World Cup last year."

Montagliani said while there's some work to do within the CSA, "old baggage" of 20-year-old stories of bad management were skewing the organization's reputation.

"It's stale, quite frankly... . Our financial house is in order, sponsors have been retained and new sponsors are coming on board. We do a better job of event management, if you look at [regional]CONCACAF qualifiers."

He said he was optimistic that Canadian soccer will see better results soon. "Our women have made both the World Cup and the Olympics, and we were close to the Olympics on the men's side. But the one that's always missing [the men's World Cup]is the grand-daddy of them all. We're going to do our best to support and resource that, and hopefully they'll make it. We're fully aware that one tournament means a lot to everyone."

Currently, about half of the CSA's $7-million budget comes from registration fees.

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Sports reporter

James Christie written sports for the Globe on staff since 1974, covering almost all beats and interviewed the big names from Joe DiMaggio, to Muhammad Ali, to Jim Brown to Wayne Gretzky. Also covered the 10 worst years in Toronto Maple Leafs hockey history. More

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