Canada Soccer in another player dispute leading into a FIFA World Cup

This time, it’s the women’s national soccer team who are at odds with the national governing body, going on strike Friday over financial cutbacks to the program

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Another run towards a FIFA World Cup has led to another player revolt for Canada Soccer.

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This time, it’s the women’s national soccer team who are at odds with the national governing body, going on strike Friday over pay equity issues and financial cutbacks to the program.

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Canada is due to play in the SheBelieves Cup starting with a game against the United States in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday. Canada is also scheduled to play Brazil in Nashville on Feb. 19 and Japan in Frisco, Tex., on Feb. 22.

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Canada will compete in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer, but as yet do not have any home game scheduled to prepare for the expanded 32-team tournament.

Canada is the reigning Olympic champions and are considered title contenders for the World Cup.

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“Saying that we’re outraged is an understatement,” midfielder Janine Beckie told TSN on Friday. “There’s not really words to describe how it feels to be here in camp with the national team and know we are not being given the same resources that our men’s team was given last year to prepare for their World Cup.

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“I don’t like the word fair, but it is so incredibly unfair to the women, and the staff, and to everyone that supports this team, works for this team, is a fan of this team; we’ve had enough. It’s way, way, too far gone.”

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In response, Canada Soccer put out a statement on Friday afternoon. The women’s national team is currently holding a training camp in Orlando preparing for the SheBelieves Cup, featuring players based in North America and those given permission to participate by the European clubs.

The official FIFA women’s international window does not begin until next week.

“Canada Soccer has a proven track record of supporting women’s soccer. Pay equity for our Women’s National Team is at the core of our ongoing player negotiations. Canada Soccer will not agree to any deal without it,” the Canada Soccer statement read. “That is why, after months of negotiations with our Women’s National Team Players and their legal counsel, Canada Soccer already issued a mutually-agreed to retroactive payment. We have also previously informed our Women’s National Team that the “Friends and Family” program, granted to our Men’s National Team in Qatar, will be replicated for our Women at the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

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“This is real change in action, but there is more to do. To continue that important work, we need to have a collective bargaining agreement in place, to responsibly plan for the future. We presented an equity-based proposal to our National Teams and their counsel several months ago, and we are still waiting for a definitive response to the terms of that proposal.

“Canada Soccer and our legal counsel will be meeting with our Women’s National Team in Orlando tomorrow morning, as agreed to last Sunday, to continue our discussions. We want to get this resolved, for both of our National Teams, and for soccer in Canada.”

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The men’s national team was involved in similar pay dispute with Canada Soccer this past summer. It resulted in the last-minute cancellation of a game against Panama at BC Place in Vancouver. Canada Soccer also had to cancel an exhibition game against Iran after receiving backlash for scheduling the contest.

“It’s been a journey with the Canadian Soccer Association, and we’ve been negotiating and we’ve been trying to fight the fair fight and, in a way, it’s gotten us nowhere,” said Canada captain Christine Sinclair. “Yesterday (Thursday) we sent a list of demands to the CSA and we’ve heard nothing back and decided that it’s time to take action.

“Us and the men’s team, we’re fully united and it’s time to take a stand. We’re preparing for the biggest tournament of our lives and don’t feel fully equipped to do. On the back of our success, on the back of the men’s success, Canada Soccer is bringing in these new shiny sponsors, who’s aim is to grow the game to support not only the senior national teams and the youth programs, but where is the money?”

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Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis attempted to defend the organization’s position last summer after the men went on strike, citing the budget was not large enough to meet the players demands. Canada Soccer received a multi-million-dollar bonus for qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar this past November.

Sinclair released the Canadian Soccer Association statement of operations for the past two years where revenues increased from roughly $14.5 million in 2020 to $33.5 million in 2021. A large portion of that increase comes from FIFA and Concacaf bonus money along with commercial fees, which includes a major sponsorship agreement with CIBC.

The statement also shows Canada Soccer spent just over $11-million on the men’s program and $5-million on the women. The men played 20 World Cup qualifying matches to get to Qatar and four exhibition games prior to the tournament.

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“The Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team players are, once again, deeply disappointed by the actions of Canada Soccer and wholeheartedly support the Women’s National Team players’ statement made this afternoon about completely unsatisfactory preparation conditions for this summer’s Women’s World Cup,” began a statement put out by the men’s team. “Since June 2022, Canada Soccer has consistently refused or blatantly ignored our Players Association requests for access to its financial records to back-up its claims that id does not have the funds to properly operate Canada Soccer of fairly compensate the players, and demands that it explain what happened to millions of dollars that it should be receiving each year from sponsors and other sources.”

Email: [email protected]

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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