FAQ: Canada Soccer Youth Club Licensing Program

Why is Canada Soccer developing and implementing a club licensing program?

In Canada, there has been a call for strong leadership in the development of a more standardized soccer system and consistent, actively-enforced, standards throughout. Internationally, FIFA and Concacaf have been actively developing licensing programs since 2006 and 2013 respectively with Canada Soccer beginning its own licensing program for professional soccer clubs in 2017. With linkages to licensing at the professional level, in 2017 Canada Soccer undertook the development of a broader club licensing system for all youth soccer organizations.

In Canada, youth soccer clubs and academies play an essential role in the development of players, coaches, and officials and provide both the daily playing environment and primary contact for participants. By raising the standards of these organizations, both the daily playing environment and participant experience are enhanced; thereby improving the overall soccer system in Canada.

What’s different about the Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program from other standards-based classification programs?

In comparison to traditional licensing and charter programs, the Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program takes a relatively unique approach. Rather than a front-loaded, input-based classification exercise, the Club Licensing Program firstly outlines the desired behaviours and characteristics of organizations with a goal of stimulating change in the soccer system by driving these positive behaviours.

In addition to the classification of organizations, the Club Licensing Program also includes elements to support club development as well as a robust, back-end, appraisal that provides organizations with clear feedback against the key performance indicators aligned to the stated principles and desired behaviours and outcomes.

Why should my organization want to be a part of the Licensing Program?

Beyond the intrinsic motivation to align operations to best practices and principles, the benefits to member organizations of participation in the Club Licensing Program are built around a four-corner approach: Reward, Recognition, Differentiation, and Access to Competition.

Member Associations meeting the criteria of each classification within the Club Licensing Program will be recognized accordingly by Canada Soccer. In addition, the use of classification within the Club Licensing Program as a means of differentiation from other programs and organizations may provide significant benefit in player recruitment as well as assurance to participating players (and their parents) of the quality of the organization within which they participate.

Beyond that, at the National Youth Club Licence classification, member organizations will be accorded the Canada Soccer Approved Youth Soccer Club endorsement and receive the associated MLS Home Grown Player benefits and the opportunity to participate in the Canada Soccer Player Development Program (PDP).  

Does the program apply only to “clubs”?

Within the Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program, the “soccer club” is defined as being any organization that is a member of Canada Soccer (either directly or affiliated through membership with a Canada Soccer Member Association) that registers players and coaches and delivers soccer programming. The status of the organization as either not-for-profit or private is not relevant to the eligibility for inclusion in the Club Licensing Program, which is open to traditional not-for-profit soccer clubs, private academies, and any other soccer organization in membership.

My organization is relatively small and run entirely by volunteers, where do I fit into the Club Licensing Program?

The Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program is designed to be inclusive of all. A series of foundational requirements that form the Canada Soccer Standards for Quality Soccer have been developed that, along with the conditions and expectations of membership, create the baseline expectations for all organizations. Providing a developmentally appropriate, safe, enjoyable, accessible, inclusive and welcoming playing environment for participants, which differentiates it from non-member soccer and unorganized play are minimum expectations of organizations of any size or sophistication and lead to endorsement as a Canada Soccer Quality Soccer Provider.

Is every organization expected to work towards qualifying for a National Youth Club Licence? My organization does not have the resources to do more, we are only focused on providing opportunity for players from our community.

No. The Canada Soccer Club Licensing Program is designed to support organizations to become the best version of themselves. For some organizations, this may involve progressing to higher classifications within the licensing program, while for others the focus will be on making improvements both on and off the field within the current classification.

How did Canada Soccer arrive at the criteria that are included in the Licensing Program?

Canada Soccer has spent the last 18 months researching existing licensing, standards, and charter programs to develop a set of criteria that will challenge organizations to improve while also recognizing the unique Canadian soccer landscape. In addition to documentation from FIFA and Concacaf, licensing programs from a number of international federations were also reviewed as well as existing standards-based programs from BC Soccer, Saskatchewan Soccer Association, Manitoba Soccer Association, Ontario Soccer, Soccer New Brunswick and multi-sport programs.

Following the development of an initial framework, a lengthy feedback and consultation process occurred that included Canada Soccer Member Associations as well as their membership prior to finalizing the criteria for the Club Licensing Program.

Some of the criteria are vague, how do I know what is actually expected of the organization?

To assist in the licensing process, a Support Manual has been developed. In addition to outlining important deadlines and processes as well as roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders associated with the Canada Soccer Licensing Program, the Support Manual also outlines the specific requirement that will be reviewed to determine if each criterion is met.

In addition, many of the criteria are desired behaviours, aligned to principles, rather than specific requirements. These criteria require a commitment from the organization and will be measured through the appraisal process rather than submission of a specific document to indicate achievement.

Is it expected that the organization meet all of the criteria at the time of application?

No. It is recognized that some criteria will take time to implement. While some criteria must be met at the time of application, others are considered “actionable.” All criteria will be reviewed at the time of application with an Action Plan created to achieve the criteria within the timeframe outlined should it not be in place initially. The criteria that are required at the time of application and those that are actionable are identified with the Support Manual.

What resources will be available to support my organization in meeting the standards or criteria of the Club Licensing Program?

Canada Soccer and its Member Associations have a responsibility to support development at the member organization level. In order to do so, Canada Soccer has developed a series of Organizational Profiles, which outline, in broad strokes, the characteristics and behaviours of the different categorizations of organizations in Canada. In order to support organizations in achieving these expectations, a series of guides outlining best practices and principles in Governance, Management and Operations, Safety, and Accessibility and Inclusion, are also being developed. Finally, a group of experts in various areas of club governance and operations are being identified to provide more extensive support to organizations in need. These will include individuals from Canada Soccer and its Member Associations, as well as external consultants.

How does my organization apply for licensing?

In order to manage the volume of applications that will be received, the Club Licensing Program will be implemented using a phased in approach. The first group of organizations that will be invited to apply for the Canada Soccer National Youth Club Licence includes those organizations currently participating in recognized standards-based leagues and any additional organizations as deemed appropriate by Canada Soccer. Once that application process is complete and Member Associations have established an implementation plan, including application, review, and approval processes, organizations will be invited to apply for recognition through the Canada Soccer Standards for Quality Soccer. It is envisioned that applications will be open for all classifications throughout the country by July 31, 2019 as outlined in the Support Manual.

Who will be reviewing the licensing applications and what will the process be?

The review process is a partnership between Canada Soccer and its affiliated Member Associations. For more specifics, please refer to the Canada Soccer Club Licensing – Information Manual.

How do I learn more about the Club Licensing Program?

Additional information on the Canada Soccer Youth Club Licensing Program is available by contacting Dave Nutt, Manager of Development-Operations at dnutt@canadasoccer.com. In the coming months, each Member Association will also identify a lead to support the Club Licensing Program and serve as the primary contact for organizations within that jurisdiction.