The players are speaking: enough is enough

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A soccer ball sits against a yellow background, and every black patch on the soccer ball has a red maple leaf in the middle of the patch.
Though strikes abound, these teams are still around.  OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay and Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay, manipulated by Lee Lim

Negotiations lag and strike drama abounds as agreements with the national teams develop

The Canadian women’s soccer team walked into the SheBelieves Cup not wearing their normal warm-up jerseys. As the Canadian national anthem played, the players stood in solidarity, wearing their purple t-shirts as a symbol of the need for equality in soccer. The shirts said “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” on the front.  

Purple is often used to signify gender equality, and was used in this case to both symbolize and protest the lack of equality and equity in Canada Soccer. In the lead up to the SheBelieves Cup in the United States, several Canadian senior national team players took to social media platforms to post a message regarding the inequalities and historic lack of transparency from Canada Soccer.  

The messages posted to the players’ accounts on February 10, 2023 spoke of significant budget cuts to national team programs along with uncertainty regarding compensation. Canada Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Players Association have been in negotiations for more than a year now, discussing the need for equity, equality, and transparency. It appears that a solution to this overwhelming problem is not likely to be achieved in the near future.  

The posts also included a financial breakdown, indicating that the women’s national team brought in more excess revenue than expenses for the year compared to the men’s team. In a post to Instagram, Janine Beckie posted several photos explaining why the situation with Canada Soccer is more than just about compensation. The post highlights that there has been poor governance from Canada Soccer, which has resulted in financial mismanagement, along with the deal between Canada Soccer and Canada Soccer Business which ensures that athletes don’t receive benefits from increased investment within the sport.  

The second point that Beckie highlights is that there is continuing gender inequity, and that there have been significant funding discrepancies between women’s and men’s national teams in the last two years. Beckie also acknowledged that these budget cuts affect the team’s ability to prepare for the upcoming World Cup, along with the financial impact that it places on the youth national teams moving forward. Her post concludes that the team is looking for equitable opportunities and that significant changes of Canada Soccer personnel are required in order to achieve financial sustainability for both the senior and junior national teams.  

As a way to move negotiations forward, the women’s national team decided that they would not compete in any competition – including the SheBelieves Cup – leading up to the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. In response, Canada Soccer threatened players, staff, and other members with legal action if the team did not compete at the SheBelieves Cup.  

A statement released by the Canadian Soccer Players Association explains that before a meeting between them and Canada Soccer, “Canada Soccer told us that they consider our job action to be an unlawful strike. They told us that if we do not return to work – and did not commit today to playing in Thursday’s game against the United States – they would not only take legal action to force us back to the pitch but would consider taking steps to collect what could be millions of dollars in damages from our Players’ Association and from each of the individual players currently in camp.” 

The statement states further that “as individual players who have received no compensation yet for any of our work for Canada Soccer in 2022, we cannot afford the risks that personal action against us by Canada Soccer will create. Because of this, we have advised Canada Soccer that we will return to training tomorrow and will play in the SheBelieves Cup as scheduled.”  

On February 27, it was announced that Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis resigned during a board meeting after provincial and territorial soccer leaders asked that he resign. It is believed that Bontis stepped down as a way to expedite labour peace, however, CBC News has reported that Bontis has been named council vice-president of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) since his resignation.  

In a statement on February 26, Bontis stated “Canada Soccer and both of our national team programs have the real potential to sign a historic collective bargaining agreement. Once signed, it will be a landmark deal that will set our nation apart from virtually every other FIFA member association. While I have been one of the biggest proponents of equalizing the competitive performance environment for our women’s national team, I will unfortunately not be leading this organization when it happens. I acknowledge that this moment requires change.”  

It should also be noted that Bontis was a proponent of Canada Soccer’s deal with Canada Soccer Business, which limited the financial earnings for individual players playing for the national teams. Bontis’ resignation comes months after players and the Canadian Soccer Players Association asked for a change in management in the organization.  

On March 1, Canada Soccer announced their new interim CEO as Olympian Charmaine Crooks. It was announced on March 2 that the women’s national team reached a deal in principle with Canada Soccer regarding an interim funding agreement for 2022. The women’s team still hasn’t received funding for 2022 and the principal deal only mirrors that with the men’s national team, which includes per-game incentives and results-based compensation.  

An overreaching collective bargaining agreement for both the men’s and women’s national teams is still being negotiated. It appears that interim Canada Soccer CEO Charmaine Crooks understands how important a new agreement is for the women’s national team and is not wasting her time, sparking hope that a new collective bargaining agreement may soon be reached.  

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