A Canada Soccer Originals image. A Canada Soccer Originals image. (Canada Soccer.)

There are some significant changes coming to Canada Soccer, that country’s umbrella federation that oversees that country’s men’s and women’s national teams as well as the game as a whole in that country. On Monday, they’re going to fully unveil their plans for Canada Soccer Originals, new docuseries-style content.

Canada Soccer Originals will start with an On Guard series in partnership with long-time partners Offside. That will cover both the men’s and women’s senior national teams, and will be available on YouTube. They’re also going to unveil plans for revamped social media channels, including distinct accounts and brand voices for men’s team content, women’s team content, and corporate content.

Ahead of the release of the full plans Monday, Canada Soccer chief communications and content officer Paulo Senra spoke to AA on a video call to discuss what’s coming. He also provided a teaser video for On Guard. Here’s that:

On the Canada Soccer Originals front, Senra said that came out of a number of discussions he had after taking the role at Canada Soccer last September, and out of a desire to shift focus to longer-form, differentiated, and more entertainment-focused content.

“What I inherited last year was a whole lot of amazing work being done by the staff in the content team, and our partners at Offside. We’ve been doing this for several years now. But we were building for social. And also, the sense I got just kind of over the first couple months of absorbing it all was that we were informing first, entertaining second. And, collectively with our team, we just decided to turn that on its head.”

He said that focus came because Canada Soccer recognizes its internal team and partnership with Offside is different than their traditional media partners, and can bring different value to the table.

“One of our principles moving forward is to entertain first and inform second,” Senra said. “We are never going to compete with the likes of ESPN, TSN, Sportsnet, CBC on the actual reporting and covering of our team.”

Senra said it’s vital for them to hit unexplored and undercovered territory.

“I was really challenging the team to look for blue waters,” he said. “Blue waters is if nobody else is around you from a marketing perspective, a content perspective. We were kind of fighting in the red waters, where there’s a lot of blood in the water because everyone’s doing the same thing. Our unique selling proposition here is that we have moments and places no one else has access to. And to do that properly, we felt we needed to shift our strategy to longform content. And the place to do that right now is YouTube.”

As per putting these docuseries on YouTube rather than in a deal with a traditional media partner, Senra said that’s a great way to have the content widely available to fans, and also presents other opportunities down the road.

“The other sort of element is when you build longform content and you build through YouTube, it provides you an opportunity to create examples where potential partners can come on to widen your reach. And that’s something that I’m very interested in looking into and tapping into over the next year and well beyond heading into the World Cups, with both the women’s and men’s World Cups in the next couple years.”

YouTube also has a notable global reach, so fans of the Canadian team (and fans of opposing teams interested in learning more on Canada) around the world should be able to watch this. Senra said that’s possible because of the off-field focus.

“I don’t think we’re putting anything on there that is going to be problematic in terms of rights clearances,” he said. “There will be moments where there is on-field stuff, but, again, you can watch that on TV. Our intention here, one of the main principles, is places and moments that they don’t have access to. Planes, buses, hotel rooms, sidelines, training sessions. All of those moments are not stuff where cameras are rolling from our media partners. So we’re really excited to showcase the personalities of our players when they’re not on the field. This is all about off-pitch, personality-driven content.”

And Senra thinks there is a notable global market for Canadian soccer content. And he expects to have more to announce there in the coming months.

“We’re having conversations right now with entities that will enable us to have a wider reach for our content. And that’s not just nationally, it’s globally speaking,” he said. “We are on the cusp of the biggest global sports event in the world in 2026, the biggest World Cup ever. And we have the defending gold medal team this summer. And we have an upcoming Women’s World Cup on the heels of the men’s World Cup, in 2027, after the men’s World Cup in 2026. So we have what I call beachfront properties at Canada Soccer in terms of content.”

This comes at a time when not just more and more sports documentaries are coming out around the world, but also more and more lengthy docuseries. Senra said that’s part of what motivated Canada Soccer to take this tack.

“It’s in the same spirit as that,” he said. “And I am excited to explore and to have conversations with our existing broadcasters on the broadcast side, but also anyone who wants to come in and have a conversation about how to tell our stories globally, like they’re doing right now on streaming platforms around the world. So I see that, I want to be involved in those conversations. And that’s ultimately the gold standard for us as an organization.”

With some all-access docuseries, there has been backlash from independent media over in-house teams gaining access and removing some of their access in the process. Senra said he doesn’t expect that here, because the access for these series is already in areas media aren’t in.

“No, because the areas that we’re turning the cameras on, literally, the media wouldn’t be there. Our broadcast partners would never be in a locker room immediately after a win or a loss. Our staff are right there, both from a technical perspective, but also, our content team is right there. And media don’t travel with us on buses and planes. So I’ve got no concerns about that at all.”

And he said he’s always personally wanted more access for media, and worked to provide access to smaller and independent media outlets (a notable conversation in the soccer world right now) during his time with the Canadian Olympic Team and the Canadian Football League in particular.

“In fact, it’s the complete opposite,” Senra said. “As you know, my background is with the Canadian Olympic Team and the CFL, and I’ve got so much respect for our media colleagues. It’s just an extension, it’s just a megaphone for our telling of our stories. And we can’t do their jobs, but we can certainly help them do their jobs, and that’s 100 percent the intention from the PR/media relations perspective for us.

“We want to be able to help outlets no matter where you are, big or small. Just as a side example, with the CFL, I invited podcasters to the mix of regular big-time media press conferences, and I also had spots reserved in the press box for organizations at that time with the renaissance of the podcasting world. So I see the value of supporting not just the mainstream organizations, but new media as it happens and as they’re growing as well. I’m a huge fan of those opportunities.”

Beyond the originals, Monday will also see much more announced on the social account shifts and the changes to the voices of each of those accounts. Senra said he’s incredibly excited for that, and thinks that may even be the more important change on a day-to-day basis. And he said dividing up content and finding a voice for each account will help them engage with fans better.

“I know that Canada Soccer Originals is the big thing right now and the big launch, but from a day-to-day, I think that is going to be, the tonal shift for our channels, is going to be what fans will notice right away and every single day of their lives in their engagement with us,” he said. “We had a main Canada Soccer account on Twitter, for example, and Instagram, that is all-encompassing, everything. So we would talk corporately to them and then we would show an Alphonso Davies clip from the World Cup.”

“It just doesn’t make sense. What I’m trying to build here, with the team, is the right content in the right places. We’re going to diversify our presence on social, we’re going to have men’s national team channels, women’s national team channels, and our corporate channels, and we created brand voices for all of those channels. It will be a thoughtful, purposeful engagement with our fans in each of those channels, and we will speak to people like humans in the channels that require those interactions.”

Senra said that came out of two months of meetings in January and February, and he’s thrilled with the result.

“I’m excited about it, I think that two-month process of trying to decide who we are and who we are not was fascinating, and it was an absolute team effort across many departments. And while it feels like a small shift, it actually is the biggest shift for us as an organization in terms of social interaction and the way we present ourselves publicly.”

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.