Canada Soccer strikes interim compensation deal with women's team
Canada Soccer has struck an agreement in principle with the Canadian women's team on compensation for 2022.
While the deal is a step forward in the ongoing labour talks with both the men's and women's teams, the process has yet to reach the finish line.
Canada Soccer still has to conclude its deal with the men's team to secure labour peace.
That's because the separate labour agreements with the two teams involve pay equity so one is connected to the other.
Plus the women have other grievances that will need addressing
News of the interim deal came Thursday evening in a short statement issued by Canada Soccer but with the approval of the women's team.
"This is about respect, this is about dignity, and this is about equalizing the competitive environment in a world that is fundamentally unequal," Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane said in the statement. "We have been consistent and public about the need to have fairness and equal pay be pillars of any new agreements with our players, and we are delivering on that today.
"While this is an important step forward, and it signals progress, there is still more work to do to ensure both of our national programs are given the necessary resources and supports to prepare and compete."
The statement did not detail the interim agreement.
"Last summer, we agreed to an interim compensation deal with our men’s national team for appearance fees and results-based bonuses that mirrors the one the women’s team just accepted," a Canada Soccer spokesman said. "That deal was to be viewed as a bridge deal to get us to a collectively bargained agreement, which are part of our ongoing discussions."
The US$9 million the Canadian men earned for their World Cup appearance in Qatar remains part of the pay equity discussion.
"We continue to work diligently towards a deal on World Cup prize money," the spokesman said.
Canada Soccer said the interim funding agreement with the women is subject to change "on the basis of details included in the final collective bargaining agreement."
The women have other issues.
They want the same backing and preparation in advance of this summer's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the men got before Qatar. Their concerns include being provided the same travel and staff, among other things.
Like the men, they also want Canada Soccer to open its books and explain why both programs are being cut in 2023, given the success of the two teams on and off the field.
The women's existing labour agreement ran out at the end of 2021 while the men are working on their first formal deal, having banded together as the Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association last year. The women organized under the Canadian Soccer Players' Association in 2016.
Earlier Thursday both teams called on Canada Soccer to consult with the players "on the best path forward" before the next permanent president is chosen.
Former Olympian Charmaine Crooks has taken over as acting president in the wake of Nick Bontis's resignation. An election will be held in May to determine who finishes out Bontis's term, which runs through the summer of 2024.
"This change in board leadership at Canada Soccer is one necessary step to ensure the future success of our national team and youth programs, and the survival and growth of soccer in Canada for generations to come," the two national teams said in a joint statement Thursday.
The players called on Canada Soccer "to consult immediately and meaningfully with the national teams on the best path forward, before Mr. Bontis’s permanent successor is named."
"A real and meaningful change to Canada Soccer’s strategy is needed — one that puts the sport and its players first," the statement added. "Canada Soccer’s next president must share the national teams’ commitment to fully capitalizing on this moment in Canadian soccer, and ensuring our national teams and youth programs have the resources and support they need to compete on the world stage for years to come."
The players also repeated their call for Canada Soccer to open its books "particularly in light of recent budget cuts to the very programs that have generated unprecedented sponsor interest in supporting the national teams. It needs to address the unauthorized use still being made of national team player images.
"It needs to take immediate action to address the untenable financial constraints imposed by its agreement with Canadian Soccer Business, once and for all."
Details on the controversial deal with Canadian Soccer Business, which handles broadcast rights and sponsorship for Canada Soccer, are expected to come out in parliamentary Heritage Committee hearings later this month. The committee has asked to see the agreement in addition to Canada Soccer board minutes dating back to 2017.
The committee is scheduled to hear representatives from the women's team on March 9 and Canada Soccer on March 20.
The Canadian men refused to play a planned friendly against Panama last June in Vancouver over their dissatisfaction at the progress of the labour talks. The women briefly downed tools before the recent SheBelieves Cup, eventually playing the tournament under protest after Canada Soccer threatened them with legal action if they did not return to the field.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press