‘Frustrated, Appalled, and Heartbroken’: CanWNT Opens Up About Canada Soccer Dispute
On Tuesday afternoon, four members of the Canada Soccer Players Association met with the media to discuss the ongoing situation at Canada Soccer.
Janine Beckie, Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, and Quinn answered questions for roughly 45 minutes following a strong opening statement.
“What a few turbulent days it has been,” opened Schmidt. “On Friday, I released a statement on social media stating that I will no longer engage in Canada Soccer activities nor represent the federation until the issues that were raised by the players association are resolved.”
“On Saturday, prior to the meeting with the CSA to discuss our demands, we were informed that they had every intention to take legal action if we did not get back to work and play in our SheBelieves games. Therefore, due to what would have been legal repercussions, we as a team could only feasibly decide to play.”
“Fundamental issues that we as players have raised still have not been resolved by the CSA, and how is it that during the time that both the men’s and the women’s are at their peak success, historically how are we having budget cuts not to mention in a World Cup year alone?”
“The women’s junior camp is only scheduled once this year and that is for all age groups. How is this possible [to have only one camp] and where is the money? I am angry and frustrated, appalled, and heartbroken to know decisions have been made and are being made on both the men’s and the women’s sides is absolutely devastating, and my concern for youth soccer players especially all the girls out there in Canada is still at the forefront.”
“Following our meeting on Saturday, I immediately approached Bev and told her of my intentions to retire from international soccer and that I would like to fly home and she asked me to sleep on it. After a long chat with Sincy [Sinclair] to debrief, she talked me off the ledge, so to speak, and she made me promise that I will see this fight through and that we need to leave this place a better environment and ensure a stable pathway for girls to be successful and chase after their dreams.”
“It is absolutely the greatest honor to play for Canada and I love this team, the players, especially for who they are as people, and I love the staff that takes care of us on a daily basis, and I love my country and the Canadians that have supported me throughout all the years and it is my choice and I choose to stay and play.”
“I promised Sincy I would stay and fight the fight to get what we deserve and to fight the CSA to hold them to better standards and to fight for our youth programming that is being starved for funding at the moment, and to fight for a World Cup that I truly believe we are contenders to champion it and I am here to help this team win a World Cup in whatever capacity and my views of the CSA have never been more concerning.”
From there she announced that following the World Cup she would be retiring from international soccer.
“I will walk away with a full heart,” she said.
The players were first asked about the mood of the team going into Thursday’s game against the US.
“I feel there is a wide range of emotions and feelings going on,” said Sinclair. “The rest of our player reps are exhausted and deflated and, as a team, we are at our wit’s end and as a team, this could be our biggest fight.”
Beckie confirms the negotiations with Canada Soccer have been going on for over a year.
“Last year we felt very positive in the direction things were going but by no means did we get anywhere where we were ready to sign an agreement. We were trying to get this done before the World Cup, so that was the full intention – and then we came to camp and made aware of the situation. Things changed quickly but we still have the intention of coming to an agreement when these fundamental issues are resolved so that’s something we feel strongly about and it is a very urgent matter for us.”
The players were asked to give their reaction when they found out about the potential lawsuit Canada Soccer would launch if they didn’t play or continued to strike.
“It was honestly very disheartening, but we knew at the same time we couldn’t put ourselves in that situation going forward mostly because we don’t make millions of dollars so to be sued would put all of us in a very difficult position. So we were frustrated that it escalated to that, but once that happened it was a very clear decision for us to go back on the field but not as our choice but as a forceful measure to go back and start training again.”
Quinn responded, “from a personal level playing for Canada has been a dream of ours since we were kids, and to really understand the situation and the organization putting us in that position, for me it’s devastating.”
Sinclair confirmed that if things aren’t fixed by the April window the players would not be going to that camp. Initially, two friendly matches had been set to take place that month in BC.
“We will be playing these [SheBelieves Cup] games in protest but obviously next window that won’t be the case.”
Beckie also mentioned that these decisions were not just made by the player reps but also by the other players on the ground in Orlando, including Desiree Scott who is back home nursing an injury.
A question was raised as to why budget cuts are happening while both teams are proving very successful on the pitch, but the player reps confirmed they weren’t given an explanation by Canada Soccer
Sinclair commented saying that it’s an interesting time for those cuts to come, but they were left in the dark as to why the decision was made.
She also stated again that they want what the men got last year and she feels it is time that they are treated like the men in terms of pay equity.
I asked the player reps what kind of support they have gotten from the men’s team and Beckie confirmed it’s been really great and they have their 100% support.
“They have all been great in providing any information that we want and vice versa, so they are fully on board with the equal pay in the new women’s deal which is fantastic and that is what we all want, so to have a group of men that have brought recent success to the CSA and join our success over the last 12 years makes everyone really excited. But at the same time there is a similar level of disappointment and frustration, especially over the last couple of days. They have been fantastic in reaching out and ‘if there is anything we can do let us know’, and it’s been a great relationship and amazing to have them as assets and again vice versa.”
The reps were asked if they felt confident enough to secure a deal with the current leadership in place.
“It’s tense,” Sinclair said. “I have been on this team for a very long time and it has been a constant battle with the leadership of CSA to put forth progressive CBAs and something needs to change.”
They were also asked if they had a message to their fans and the response was pure gratitude.
“The key message to our youth is that what we are doing right now is not a short-term fix and we are in this for the long haul, and what we are asking are fundamental changes in the way that the CSA operates in order to operate our teams at a world-class level consistently and to hold people accountable.”
“We are sorry that you have to see us take these actions because we all know that we want our fans to see us play and want to see us train and enjoy our time with the national team.”
“We want to say a massive thank you to our fans for your endless support we hear you and we are still excited that even going through this we get to play for the people that we want to play for.”
A big demand from the women is equal treatment. Beckie, who was on the ground in Doha covering the World Cup for TSN, saw a lot of what that would look like in last year’s FIFA Men’s World Cup.
“I was amazed by the number of staff that the men’s team had and I know every time we come into camp there is only half of what the men have, and having the correct number of players and unfortunately there are times when staff have to jump on the field and play and that should never happen.”
“We are just asking for equal opportunity and equal resources and we expect nothing less than to be treated the same way and it’s pretty disgusting just having to ask to be treated equally. It’s a fight women have to partake in every single day and quite frankly we are really sick of it, and now I just get angry about it. It’s about time, it’s 2023, we won the damn Olympic games and we are about to go to a World Cup where we could win.”
Finally to conclude the conference, player reps were asked how their coach Bev Priestman felt and if there was any involvement and what kind of support they were getting from her.
“I want to say a huge thank you to our staff,” closed Beckie. “They have been incredible in this situation with us and they are very understanding of the mental-emotional state of our players and very supportive of the decision we made not to train and Bev has been put in an impossible situation.”
“This team is one big family and it is an environment that has been created over many many years and everyone that comes in fits in seamlessly and Bev has done just that and she has taken our team to the next level and really pushed our standards and she is fighting for the same things that we are and she is a top coach in the world.”
“She has been so supportive but I know she is very frustrated.”
Canada will kick off its first of three group stage matches at the SheBelieves Cup this Thursday against the USA.
Header Image Photo Credit: Canada Soccer