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Five months from World Cup, Canada women’s players say they won’t play again until labor demands are met

The SheBelieves Cup is less than a week away, but training has halted in Orlando as players and federation meet again Saturday to negotiate a future

Photo Copyright Canada Soccer by Daniela Porcelli

Fed up with how they have been treated and ignored by the Canada Soccer Association, the players are taking job action as they continue to fight for equal pay.

While players have been arriving and training in Orlando, Florida, this week ahead of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, Canadian players say they will not continue to play, practice, or participate in any activities until the list of demands they have presented to the Canada Soccer Association have been met. 

“Until this is resolved, I can’t represent this federation,” longtime captain Christine Sinclair told TSN’s Rick Westhead in an exclusive interview on Friday. “I’m such a competitor, it breaks my heart and kills me to actually be saying those words out loud.”

The players sent in a list of demands to the Canada Soccer Association on Thursday and say they have yet to receive a response or be acknowledged by the federation. 

As the team prepares for the 2023 World Cup since hosting in 2015, it faces unprecedented budget cuts. Players say they are being denied the same resources as the men’s team received for the 2022 World Cup, despite that the women are reigning Olympic gold medalists.

According to the Canadian Soccer Player’s Association statement, the players have been negotiating in good faith with the Canada Soccer Association for over a year and were recently told that they will be facing significant budget cuts to the women’s national team program. 

Some of those cuts include individual days of training camp and even full international camp windows, as well as cuts to the number of players and staff that are invited, and limits on youth camp activities. All this while they also face “immense uncertainty about compensation.”

The players want to have more camp invites for players and staff, they want to see more youth level activities, and they want to fly business class just like the men’s national team. They feel they can’t perform at a world-class level without world-class support, and the men fully support them in their pursuit of equity.

The players were also told they they will not have a World Cup sendoff game in Canada, where fans can come to cheer and support the reigning Olympic champions.

Since winning Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021, and completing a celebration tour, Canada has played just one game on home soil. Their last home match was played on June 26, 2022, in Toronto, and they do not currently have a home game scheduled before the 2023 World Cup.

In addition to the support from their male counterparts, the Canadians have also received support from other international players, including their prospective opponents at the SheBelieves Cup.

Speaking to TSN on Friday, Sinclair and Janine Beckie said that they want to be treated the same way as the men’s national team. 

The players are asking Canada Soccer where the money is from and how exactly is it being spent. Thus far, everything is tight-lipped and tied up, and players are frustrated that they aren’t getting any answers.

Friday evening, Canada Soccer issued a public response to the players, refuting some of their claims and adding that several months ago they “presented an equity-based proposal” for which they are still awaiting a “definitive response.” They also echo the teams’ sentiment of wanting to reach a resolution.

Canada Soccer, the Canadian women’s national team, and their various legal counsels, will meet in Orlando on Saturday morning to continue discussions. According to Canada Soccer, this meeting was agreed to last Sunday.

Regardless, the reigning Olympic champions are taking a public stand for pay equity and they won’t be on the pitch until they feel their demands have been met. 

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