The Canadian Soccer Players Association did not hold back as four members of the women’s national team spoke to a parliamentary committee on Thursday afternoon in Ottawa about how they feel they have been mistreated by Canada Soccer.
The testimony from Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt and Quinn was just under two hours and it began with Sinclair recalling just how the players’ concerns have been addressed by Canada Soccer and most notably former president, Nick Bontis, who recently resigned amid backlash.
“On a personal note, I’ve never been more insulted than I was by Canada Soccer’s own president, Nick Bontis, last year, as we met with him to discuss our concerns,” Sinclair said.
“The president of Canada Soccer listened to what I had to say and then later in the meeting referred back to it as, ‘What was it Christine was bitching about?’”
At the heart of the labor dispute is much more than equal pay and budget cuts.
“Canada Soccer treats the women’s game as an afterthought,” Schmidt told members of Parliament.
The CSPA has felt a consistent lack of transparency, trust, honesty, and respect shown towards them by Canada Soccer. That has driven a further divide between both sides.
That continued right up to the committee hearing when hours before the players spoke, Canada Soccer released private details of a proposed collective bargaining agreement.
The proposed deal offered by Canada Soccer would offer the same per-match pay for both national teams and would have the national teams sharing equal prize money from World Cup competitions.
Players would be paid $3,500 per match, per player. There would also be win bonuses up to $5,000 per player, depending on the rank of the opposition.
The women’s national team would become the second-highest paid women’s team among FIFA’s 211-member associations, according to Canada Soccer. Players viewed the timing of the press release as insulting and disrespectful.
“Unlike the CSA we are not going to go into details about our bargaining here,” Sinclair said.
Information that was released in the offer was meant to be kept at the bargaining table. Some of the terms in the release contained information previously not shown to the CSPA, players said.
The CSPA is still looking for answers regarding the media and sponsorship deal Canada Soccer has with the private company, Canadian Soccer Business. Specifically, players have asked to see how much money is coming in and where it is being directed.
The details between Canada Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Business remain tight-lipped. Players want to know who signed the deal and why it was approved.
“Either they had no idea it was a terrible deal for Canada Soccer,” Beckie said, “or they knew it was a terrible deal and did it anyway.”
The complete financial picture remains a mystery and that in turn has hurt the negotiation position for the players. “We’ve been negotiating in the dark,” Beckie said.
The contract Canada Soccer has with the Canadian Soccer Business brings in revenue and marketing funds from both national teams that goes to Canadian Soccer Business. That money is used in part to help fund the Canadian Premier League. It is unclear if any of the money goes to help women’s soccer in Canada; it goes towards a men’s professional league.
“We’ve been successful with less and have been expected to do more with less,” Beckie said. “We’re so sick and tired of having to fight the same battles.”
The proposed deal from Canada Soccer revealed that the Canadian Soccer Business is in proactive discussions to amend its representation agreement, with the goal of providing incremental funding.
During Thursday’s testimony, it was also revealed that Canada Soccer interim president Charmaine Crooks has yet to reach out to members of the CSPA.
The first interaction the players have received from Crooks was the detailed release of the CBA offer from Canada Soccer, players said.
The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is scheduled to meet with Canada Soccer executives on Monday. Further hearings are also expected.
Canada’s women’s national team is scheduled to return to the pitch during the FIFA window in April when they visit France on April 11. It remains to be seen if the players will take any job action beforehand. France recently had a player uprising of its own before news this week of head coach Corinne Diacre’s dismissal.
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