Canada Soccer’s battle with its players, explained

Canadian forward Janine Becky (16) completes a shot during the first half of the SheBelieves Cup women's soccer game against Argentina on Sunday, February 21, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhak)
Janine Becky became the leader of the Canadian Women’s Team Players Association. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhak)

The first SheBelieves Cup match to be played on Thursday between the US and Canada should be a major milestone on the road to the 2023 Women’s World Cup. This should be a test and a celebration, world champions against Olympic champions.

However, Canadian players enter it feeling “disgusted”, “exhausted”, “deflated” and “broken” amid a dispute with the Canadian Football Association (CSA), which is both the sport’s national governing body and their employer on part time.

On Thursday in Orlando (7 p.m. ET, HBO Max, Universo, Peacock), the U.S. Women’s Team will take to the field under one of the most workforce-friendly CBAs in international football, as one of the highest paid national teams. regardless of gender, their Canadian counterparts will play the game “in protest”.

Although neither player group has publicly released plans for a visible protest, “I’m sure there will be something,” legendary Canada captain Christine Sinclair said Tuesday. Even American players can be involved in it, who expressed in solidarity with their bitter rivals. “Let us know how we can provide support,” Megan Rapino wrote in an Instagram post over the weekend.

In fact, for about 24 hours last weekend, the match itself appeared to be in jeopardy as Canadian players threatened to go on strike. That’s when the argument became ugly and complicated.

Why are Canadian players upset?

Players are furious that about six months before the 2023 World Cup, the CSA cut the team’s funding. players say budget cuts left them with fewer staff, fewer training sessions and an underserved youth development system, all of which “compromised” their World Cup preparations.

These acute concerns have also escalated into wider frustration with the way Canadian football is run and how the CSA is treating its women’s and men’s teams unfairly.

Is it about equal pay?

Compensation is a problem, but not the central issue. “Wages are just a small part of the changes that need to happen,” Sinclair said Tuesday.

Players whose contract has ended and say they were not paid for their work in 2022, have been collectively negotiating with the CSA for over a year. Pay equity was at the heart of these negotiations, which were moving in a “positive direction” ahead of November’s men’s World Cup, striker Janine Becky said. CSA publicly”guaranteed” pay fairness. After the holiday break, the players hoped to “be back at the table in the new year” and “sign a contract before our preparations for the World Cup begin,” Becky said.

Instead, they were eventually told of a “significant” budget cut, and that was the turning point.

Is budget cuts unfair?

Canadian male players who expressed support for women, said on Friday that their budget has also been cut. But the cuts seem unfair because of their timing. The men received a lot of funding ahead of the 2022 World Cup. “All we ask is that our men’s team be given an equal opportunity to prepare for the World Championships” starting in July, Becky said.

Becky was in Qatar for the men’s tournament, “and I was blown away by the amount of staff that was on the men’s team,” she said. “Every time we come to the camp, there are probably half as many of us. [staffers] as they had. I understand that World Championships and major tournaments require additional staff. But if that’s the case [for] men’s team, then we expect to get each squad[er] What [head coach Bev Priestman] asks to have at our World Cup.

“It’s pretty disgusting that we have to ask to be treated the same,” she continued. “This is a struggle that women all over the world have to participate in every single day, but, frankly, we are already tired of it. And that’s something I’m not even disappointed in now. I’m just mad about it because it’s about time. Outside is 2023. We won the damned Olympics. We’re going to go to the World Cup with a team that can win it. So we expect to be prepared in the best possible way.”

Why did the players hit and then stop hitting so quickly?

On Friday, the players said they were taking employment measures and refused to train on Saturday ahead of talks with the CSA and its lawyers later that day.

According to the players, CSA officials responded by threatening to sue both the women’s players’ association and its individual members, as they considered it an “illegal strike”.

In Canada, workers and their unions must file a formal strike request through a government agency. Players reportedly filed this so-called “no board report” on February 7th, but legally they will not be in a “legal position to hit” until at least 17 days after that date.

So the players reluctantly returned to work. They said in Saturday StatementCanada Soccer… told us that if we didn’t get back to work – and take on Thursday’s game against the United States today – they would not only sue to force us back on the field, but would consider taking action. collect millions of dollars in damages from our players’ association and from every single player currently in camp.”

The players could not afford such a risk. But they were devastated. Longtime linebacker Sophie Schmidt said she nearly retired on the spot, but Priestman and Sinclair convinced her to “take this fight to the end”.

“To be clear” Sinclair tweeted“We are forced to return to work for a short period of time. It’s not over yet.”

Why did Canada Soccer cut the team’s funding?

As the battle went on and relations with Canada Soccer became worse than ever, players began asking more general questions such as Schmidt’s “Where’s the money?”

Both women and men have wondered how it is possible that when both teams are more successful and in demand than ever before, the CSA supposedly cannot afford to compensate and fund both teams better than ever.

The answer seems to be that the CSA has, in effect, sold its commercial advantage to a private company called Canada Soccer Business.

What is the Canadian football business? Why is it problematic?

Canadian football business (CSB) was founded in 2018 by the franchise owners of the new Canadian Premier League men’s professional league. These owners knew they would lose money in the early years of the league, so they wanted a facility to subsidize or cover their losses, with the stated long-term goal of developing the sport.

Through CSB, they bought all commercial and media rights from Canada Soccer and then sold those rights to sponsors and broadcasters. Under a 2019 contract between CSB and CSA, as This was reported by Rick Westhead of TSN.CSB will pay the federation a fixed fee of $3-3.5 million per year until 2027, regardless of how much money CSB can then get from sponsors and broadcasters.

At the time, the contract may have given Canada Soccer some financial security. But in fact it was a bet against teams, and now it looks like a malpractice.

Since 2018, the value of these commercial and media rights has significantly exceeded $3.5 million. But the skyrocketing revenues don’t go to Canada Soccer, don’t go to the players, and can’t be used to fund national teams. Instead, it goes to the owners of the men’s professional league, who can do whatever they want with it.

“Major revenue streams for Canada Soccer have been largely redirected to Canada Soccer Business to benefit owners of commercial minor league professional football teams,” the Canadian male players wrote in a statement Friday.

“The highly publicized deal between Canada Soccer and Canada Soccer Business ensures that national programs do not benefit from increased investment in the sport.” – the players wrote on Instagram..

Canadian football and players stuck?

Canada Soccer, and by extension its players, seems to be stuck. In fact, TSN has revealed that CSB has the option to extend its contract with Canada Soccer for another 10 years, until 2037, with its annual fee only increasing to around $4 million. (Commercial and broadcast rights probably cost many times more.)

Meanwhile, the CSB is not obliged to support the women’s team. But against the backdrop of public scrutiny and accusations that this is, in fact, swindling money from the team, This is stated in a CSB statement released on Monday. that he “proactively” offered to “provide additional resources to Canada Soccer to help fulfill its mission.” The CSB added that there were “ongoing discussions” related to funding “a suitable send-off series for the Canadian Women’s Team on Canadian soil ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, additional resources for training, and continued commitment to the advancement of youth.” programming”.

“The women’s national team deserves the resources needed to succeed ahead of the Women’s World Cup and beyond,” the statement said. “We are ready, willing and able to work with all stakeholders to play our part in making this happen.”

Can the government intervene?

However, the players called for more transparency in the CSB deal. They asked Canada Soccer to “open their books and records immediately”, but their federation did not comply.

They also called for external investigations and government involvement, which is what is happening now. This was stated by the Minister of Sports of Canada Pascal Saint-Onge. said she would attend, at the request of the male players. A It is reported that the government committee discussed the challenge of the leaders, board members and players of Canada Soccer. testify in…


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