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Does Hockey Crowd out Soccer in Canada?

Does Hockey Crowd out Soccer in Canada?

Posted by Shanelle Weir on July 01, 2014

In his column of June 17, “Canada shouldn’t subsidize soccer,” Professor William Watson argued against funding soccer to help produce players at an elite level, giving Canada a chance to participate in the World Cup. He argued that during the World Cup, “new” Canadians cheer for their native countries, while “old” Canadians don’t care.

The professor has it wrong. Now is the time to start investing in soccer, and have our professional sporting culture catch up with the changing face of Canada.

Watson used the economic term “public good” (like the joy we all get from seeing Team Canada win gold in hockey), to question how much you would pay, as a taxpayer, to see Canada at the World Cup. But another economic term comes to mind when thinking about funding professional sports in Canada: “crowding out,” a term economists use to describe an idea where an actor’s need for funding squeeze out another actors’ needs, leaving them with less.

Hockey crowds out other major professional sports in Canada. From early development to elite levels, the resources devoted to hockey development in Canada overwhelm those for other sports. Ask hockey parents about minor hockey and they’ll usually tell you about the time, energy, and money involved. Multiply these parents many times over across time and space in Canada, and imagine how that shapes a country’s sporting culture. The huge popularity and enrolment in youth soccer in Canada might be raised to counter this point. But participation in soccer peters out in adolescence, often in favour of hockey. Evidence of the crowding out effect in action.

The heavy resources deployed for hockey could be the real culprit for Canada not having a team in Brazil. The direction of most of our greatest athletes to this one sport over generations has made Canada a one-trick pony when it comes to pro sports at the international level. The climate is often mentioned as an excuse for Canada not being strong in summer sports like soccer. But other cold-weather hockey powers can field teams in the World Cup – Sweden and Russia come to mind. Why can’t Canada?

Canada is too rich, too healthy, and too diverse to be confined to one major professional sport.

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