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On behalf of 500,000 sidelined participants, Canada’s largest provincial sports organization urges a stop to the physical and mental neglect that is disproportionally harming children in the fight against COVID-19

Vaughan – During the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) 70th annual Mental Health Week, May 3-9, Ontario Soccer has urgently renewed its plea for the Government of Ontario to rescind their ban on organized outdoor sport and allow our membership to safely Return to Play at the earliest opportunity.

The CMHA teaches us that regardless of whether we have a mental illness, our mental health is something we can protect and nurture. Organized and controlled outdoor activity is a key way to achieve this in a safe and affordable manner. Tragically, and for far too long, organized outdoor play has not been available as an accessible way for all Ontarians to take care of themselves, irrespective of their background, demographic, or socio-economic status.

Our member organizations in every corner of the Province have patiently supported the current stay-at-home order, to play our part in overcoming this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, with every passing day that children are kept away from soccer pitches, baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and other outdoor playing fields and facilities, a mental health crisis grows.

It is time we take the mental health of three million children and youth seriously in Ontario. Indeed, continuing to dismiss their physical and mental well-being as a necessary trade-off for combating COVID-19 is no longer acceptable. On behalf of the 500,000 sidelined participants under our care, this social and physical neglect of our children and youth must stop.

“It is time to address the Hidden Pandemic that is plaguing our province’s children and youth as this mental health crises continues to unfold,” said Johnny Misley, Ontario Soccer Chief Executive Officer. “The Ontario Government’s own Science Table has stated that the measures taken against organized, outdoor activities will not help in the fight against COVID-19 and disproportionally harm children in the process.”

The Ontario Medical Association agreed with the statements put forward by the Ontario Government’s Science Table and issued their own supporting statement.

Medical Leaders agree that outdoor sports are a low-risk, high-benefit pursuit for children and youth to engage in to safely reclaim their health and well-being.

Just as importantly, there is an overwhelming consensus (84%) among Ontario’s voting constituency, that sports have a positive impact on their child’s mental health and/or stress levels.

“All things considered; it is imperative that participants Return to meaningful Play in the very near future,” said Peter Augruso, President and Chair, Ontario Soccer Board of Directors. “When the latest Shutdown ends, we are requesting the Government of Ontario allow children, youth, and adults to engage in training and appropriate modified competition as outlined in our 77 page Ontario Soccer Return to Play Guide and Safety Protocols that is currently in use by our membership throughout Ontario.”

To read the full letter from Ontario Soccer to Premier Doug Ford, please visit

About Ontario Soccer

Founded in 1901, Ontario Soccer is comprised of more than 550 Clubs and Private Academies servicing over 24,000 teams with 380,000 registered players, 70,000 coaches and managers, and 9,500 match officials, as well as countless volunteers, parents and supporters comprising a direct, multi-cultural community of over 1,000,000 Ontarians.

Ontario Soccer develops and delivers exceptional and sustainable programs and services throughout Ontario with the mission of providing leadership and support for the advancement of soccer in collaboration and cooperation with our membership, partners and other stakeholders. Ontario Soccer also operates the Ontario Player Development League (OPDL) – the province’s premier standards based youth development program and proudly supports Canada Soccer’s National Teams, the Canadian Premier League and Toronto FC.

An overall goal of Ontario Soccer is to assist with the equitable development of soccer as a healthy lifestyle choice, provide a talented pathway for players to excel and encourage inclusive community involvement at all levels.

Media Contact 

Ben Rycroft | Senior Manager, Digital, Strategy and Communications 
Ontario Soccer | | 905-264-9390 x 255