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Canada Soccer boots golden financial opportunity with failed matches – CBC News



Up until a month ago, everything seemed to be going right for Canada Soccer.

The national women’s squad is the defending Olympic champion, the men’s team had clinched its first World Cup appearance since 1986 and the country was preparing to be co-host of the men’s World Cup in 2026.

Moments like Sam Adekugbe’s snowbank celebration in Edmonton amped up the excitement among fans across the country amid a string of wins for the men’s squad. 

How quickly the momentum has stalled — and along with it, a golden financial opportunity. 

First, Canada Soccer arranged a friendly match with Iran, which was eventually cancelled after widespread opposition. The replacement game on Sunday against Panama was also turfed just hours before kickoff after the Canadian players refused to take the field over wage concerns.

The upcoming game on Thursday against Curaçao is now in doubt.

Members of the Canadian men’s national soccer team pose for a photo after securing a berth in the World Cup following a 4-0 win over Jamaica in a CONCACAF qualifying match on March 27. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

‘I would consider this a crisis’

Apart from the Canadian clubs recently playing in the NHL playoffs, the national men’s soccer team was arguably the hottest ticket in the country because of their recent dominance and a squad of young, entertaining players that reflect the diversity of the nation.

The financial prospects were equally unprecedented. Not only is the opportunity lost, but there will be financial consequences for the national sport body for the cancelled matches.

“The demand was huge and when they have a time like this, they have to strike. They have to strike when it’s hot. They need the funding,” said David Chong, managing director of MKTG Canada, a sports marketing agency.

“Even before this issue with the [Iran] friendly being cancelled, I think Canada Soccer was struggling to keep up with demand for simple things like merchandise,” he said.

Hundreds of fans arrived at B.C. Place on Sunday to learn the soccer match between Canada and Panama was cancelled over a dispute between players and Canada Soccer. (Shawn Foss/CBC News)

MKTG represents Scotiabank and helped broker a sponsorship deal with CONCACAF, the sport body that hosted the recent World Cup qualifying tournament where Canada finished top of the table. MKTG has also held talks with Canada Soccer on behalf of several clients pursuing sponsorship opportunities in recent years, although Chong said no deals were eventually struck.

The controversy over the proposed Iran match may force potential sponsors to rethink a relationship with Canada Soccer, he said, since companies always take into account an organization’s track record, as well as its reliability and reputation. 

“I would consider this a crisis for them,” he said. “There is a long-term impact to consider, which is brand health.”

The performance of the men’s squad to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in decades was a feel-good story for fans but is becoming a heartbreaking tale.

“This is a gong show,” said Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt about Canada Soccer. “It’s a mess of their own making.”

Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis, left, has apologized to fans for the failed Panama match. (Canada Soccer/The Canadian Press)

The families of those who died aboard Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) shot down the plane in 2020 — killing all 176 passengers and crew members, including 85 Canadians and permanent residents — described the planned exhibition match as an insult, especially given persistent concerns about the IRGC’s possible ties to Iran’s team.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it a bad idea for Canada Soccer to invite the Iranian soccer team, as did many others who condemned the match.

Wasted opportunity

An international exhibition game is known as a “friendly” — but it isn’t just for fun. The games can be a crucial part of on-field preparation in the lead up to an important tournament like the World Cup.

They are also part of the backbone of how national federations, like Canada Soccer, generate revenue. Typically, a visiting team is paid a sum of money to play the match, while the host country collects funds through ticket sales, sponsorship and broadcast deals.

Canada Soccer had agreed to pay Iran’s soccer federation $400,000 to play an exhibition game in Vancouver, according to the head of Iran’s national team. 

Expenses could pile up as tickets are refunded for both cancelled games, payments are made to both Iran and Panama and other costs related to hosting the proposed matches arise.

The reported sum agreed to between Canada and Iran was a reasonable amount, said Pierre Azaria, the general manager of MCI Sport, a Switzerland-based agency that organizes international matches and training camps for soccer clubs and national federations.

International matches are often expensive, he said, considering the cost of private aircraft, security and hotels. Usually, a country’s soccer federation would send at least 55 people to such a game, a contingent of players, coaches and staff.

The highest-ranking squads can insist on single match fees of between $2 million and $3 million, he said.

Members of Canada’s national soccer team celebrate after clinching a berth in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier in March. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

In the upcoming World Cup, Canada will be facing African and European teams, so scheduling exhibition games against countries from those regions in advance of the November tournament would have been ideal.

When Canada was looking for potential opponents, Azaria said he was working to arrange a match with Tunisia.

Azaria said Canada Soccer wasn’t willing to pay the amount of money Tunisia was proposing. 

“It didn’t happen at the end of the day,” he said.

Instead, Tunisia’s squad will earn more than a million dollars, said Azaria, to play in Japan.

Tunisia, Iran and Canada have all qualified for the World Cup. Iran is ranked 21th in the world, while Tunisia is in 35th spot, followed by Canada at 38.

Iran is often considered a pariah and is not an opponent in high demand.

“For a lot of teams, I don’t even propose Iran because politics can be problematic,” Azaria said. “Why should we work with the risk of a scandal?”

A Canada Soccer official said the organization was unable to respond to a request for an interview.

Questionable decision-making

Canada Soccer has the great fortune right now of on-pitch success from both its men’s and women’s squads, but that’s not what’s dogging the organization.

“This is perhaps one of the best moments in Canadian soccer history from the business perspective,” said Ann Pegoraro, a sport management professor at the University of Guelph.

Following the Iran controversy, Pegoraro said she questions whether Canada Soccer is prepared or professional enough to make the right decisions.

“What we saw in this is the business side of the house making a pretty big misstep when arguably the light is shining brightest on it,” she said.

The players didn’t take the field over the weekend against Panama because of a salary dispute. They are calling for more transparency from Canada Soccer, changes in the organization’s leadership, and World Cup compensation that includes 40 per cent of prize money and a “comprehensive friends and family package” for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Players also want a review of the deal Canada Soccer signed with Canadian Soccer Business (CSB) in 2019. The 10-year agreement sees CSB represent both the men’s and women’s national teams in all sponsorship and broadcast deals.

WATCH | An inside look at the failed Panama game:

John Molinaro: Canada Soccer’s ‘poor timing’ led to cancellation of friendly against Panama

1 day ago

Duration 6:33

TFC Republic founder John Molinaro joined CBC News Network to discuss Canada Soccer cancelling Sunday’s men’s national team friendly against Panama, amid a contract dispute with Canadian players.

In a statement, CSB chair Scott Mitchell said he was “incredibly disappointed” about the cancellation of the Panama match but supports the players in a call for transparency from Canada Soccer.

But Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis has said the proposal players have put forward is not financially viable.

“I can’t accept that offer that will put our organization in a financial position that is untenable,” he said at a Sunday afternoon press conference, while also apologizing to fans.

The cancellation of both matches has created international headlines, which could cause reputational harm abroad.

On Sunday, Canada Soccer executives said they moved mountains to co-ordinate the Panama match on short notice and apologized to the visiting soccer body for the failed game.

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Calgary loosening outdoor water restrictions as extreme heat continues



EDMONTON – Calgary residents can now turn on their sprinklers for longer as the city swelters under an extreme heat warning.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek says outdoor watering restrictions may be fully lifted within days, but for now residents can turn on their hoses for up to two hours twice a week to water grass and outdoor plants.

Michael Thompson, Calgary’s infrastructure services general manager, says operational pump issues have been fixed, but other mechanical problems need to be resolved before the city can give the full green light.

He says the city’s water system is approaching 75 per cent capacity, but how it can meet that demand depends on usage.

Outdoor watering restrictions have been in place since a catastrophic water main break on June 5, with a ban on all outdoor water use loosened last week.

Voluntary restrictions on indoor water use were lifted three weeks ago.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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Tesla’s 2Q profit falls 45% to $1.48 billion as sales drop despite price cuts and low-interest loans



DETROIT (AP) — Tesla’s second-quarter net income fell 45% compared with a year ago as the company’s global electric vehicle sales tumbled despite price cuts and low-interest financing.

The Austin, Texas, company said Tuesday that it made $1.48 billion from April through June, less than the $2.7 billion it made in the same period of 2023. It was Tesla’s second-straight quarterly net income decline.

Second quarter revenue rose 2% to $25.5 billion, beating Wall Street estimates of $24.54 billion, according to FactSet. Excluding one time items, Tesla made 52 cents per share, below analyst expectations of 61 cents.

Earlier this month Tesla said it sold 443,956 vehicles from April through June, down 4.8% from 466,140 sold the same period a year ago. Although the sales were were better than the 436,000 that analysts had expected, they still were a sign of weakening demand for the company’s aging product lineup.

For the first half of the year, Tesla has sold about 831,000 vehicles worldwide, far short of the more than 1.8 million for the full year that CEO Elon Musk has predicted.

The company’s widely watched gross profit margin, the percentage of revenue it gets to keep after expenses, fell once again to 18%. A year ago it was 18.2%, and it peaked at 29.1% in the first quarter of 2022.

Tesla said it posted record quarterly revenue “despite a difficult operating environment.” The company’s energy-storage business took in just over $3 billion in revenue, double the amount in the same period last year.

Shares of Tesla fell 4% in trading after Tuesday’s closing bell. The shares had been down more than 40% earlier in the year, but have since recovered most of the losses.

Revenue from regulatory credits purchased by other automakers who can’t meet government emissions targets hit $890 million for the quarter, double Tesla’s amount of most previous quarters.

The company reported $622 million in “restructuring and other” expenses for the quarter, when it laid off over 10% of its workforce.

Tesla said in a note to investors that it’s between two major growth waves, with the next one coming through advances in autonomous vehicles and new models. But the company reiterated caution that its sales growth “may be notably lower than the growth rate achieved in 2023.”

The company said plans for new vehicles, including more affordable models, are on track for production to start in the first half of next year. Tesla has hinted at a smaller model costing around $25,000. The models are to be built using some aspects of current vehicles and others from the next-generation underpinnings.

The company said average selling prices for its Models S, X, 3 and Y all dropped due to the price cuts and financing offers. It also said that the Cybertruck became the best selling electric pickup in the U.S. during the quarter.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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CN Rail lowers 2024 earnings forecast due to strike uncertainty




Canadian National Railway Co. lowered its forecast for earnings growth Tuesday as it faces the threat of a worker strike.

The Montreal-based railway, which earned $1.11 billion in the second quarter, said it is seeing international customers route shipments away from Canadian ports in the face of continued labour uncertainty at the company.

CN is awaiting a decision from the Canada Industrial Relations Board on whether some shipments would be considered essential services in the event of a strike by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union that represents CN’s engineers and conductors. Though no strike or lockout can take place until at least 72 hours after that decision is made — a decision the company expects on or about Aug. 9 — the situation is casting a cloud over CN’s business.

“The prolonged nature of this process, which prior to the CIRB referral was to conclude in May, is impacting our customers, and it is impacting our business — particularly in (the area of) international intermodal where customers have taken actions to reroute vessels away from Canadian ports until the labour question has been resolved,” said CEO Tracy Robinson on a conference call with analysts Tuesday.

Robinson said the company’s second quarter was “challenging.” She added CN’s volumes were tracking well ahead of plan until May, when contract talks between Canada’s largest railway and the union got bogged down.

“Starting late May we saw a sharp reduction primarily in our international volumes on concerns of a work stoppage,” Robinson said. “This is volume destined to the U.S. that has shifted to U.S. ports. So we have lighter volumes in the third quarter than expected.”

In June, the Teamsters rejected an offer from CN to enter into binding arbitration, a development that raised the risk of a strike. Then-labour minister Seamus O’Regan, who recently announced his resignation from cabinet, asked the CIRB to address the question of whether some shipments would continue as essential services in the event of a strike or lockout.

CN said Tuesday it does not expect the situation to escalate to a full-fledged strike or lockout, and its revised forecast makes the assumption that the current traffic diversions do not increase.

Still, the company said it is lowering its forecasted adjusted earnings per share growth for the year to the mid- to high-single-digit range, compared to an earlier forecast that predicted earnings-per-share growth of approximately 10 per cent.

Robinson said CN expects to have more certainty on the labour front after the CIRB issues its decision. She said the company’s position on a collective agreement with its engineers and conductors has not changed in recent months — it is still looking to create a structure around work scheduling that would improve crew availability in light of new federal rules around mandatory work and rest rules for critical railway employees.

The Teamsters have said CN is trying to squeeze more availability out of its train crews as a way to compensate for labour shortages. The union has said the railway’s proposal would see workers required to move across the country for months at a time to fill labour shortages in remote areas of Canada.

CN said Tuesday its net income for the quarter was five per cent lower than the $1.17 billion in the same three months of 2023.

On an adjusted basis, the company said it earned $1.17 billion in the second quarter of 2024, or $1.84 per share compared with $1.76 per share in the prior year’s quarter.

The railway reported revenues of $4.33 billion, a seven per cent increase year-over-year.

Its operating ratio, a key measure of railway efficiency where a smaller number is better, increased from 60.6 to 64 per cent year-over-year.

CN’s share price declined by $2.59, or 1.54 per cent, to close at $165.35 on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2024.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CNR)

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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