Recap: Canada Women’s National Team To Play SheBelieves Cup Amid Pay Equity Protest
A day after the Canadian women’s soccer team said they were going on strike due to job action, pay inequity, and massive cuts in the program, Canada Soccer responded strongly.
The players were planning to strike under Ontario law, but Canada Soccer – in a desperate attempt to save some face – threatened the players with a lawsuit saying their strike was unlawful.
It’s another messy twist in a developing story that has Canadian soccer fans disappointed and also demanding change to management.
It only took one day and one missed practice session before Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie made a statement saying they would play, but the fight was far from over.
“To be clear, we are being forced back to work for the short term,” Canada captain Christine Sinclair said on social media. “This is not over. We will continue to fight for everything we deserve and we will win. The SheBelieves Cup is being played in protest.”
Added Beckie: “We will continue to demand more. Lasting change is a fight we’re in for the long haul.”
“They told us that if we did not return to work – and did not commit today to playing in Thursday’s game against the United States – they would not only take legal action to force us back to the pitch, but would consider taking steps to collect what could be millions of dollars in damages from our Players’ Association and from each of the individual players currently in camp.”
“As individual players who have received no compensation yet for any of our work for Canada Soccer in 2022. We cannot afford the risks that personal action against us by Canada Soccer will create. Because of this, we have advised Canada Soccer that we will return to training [Sunday] and will play in the SheBelieves Cup as scheduled.”
The women continue to push that the cuts to the program are unacceptable.
In a separate statement, Canada Soccer mentioned that the players are not in a legal strike position under Ontario labor law.
“Canada Soccer was not prepared to jeopardize the SheBelieves Cup tournament, the preparation it would afford the women’s national team for the upcoming World Cup, nor the experience it would afford countless fans who had undoubtedly traveled to Orlando to see their Olympic heroes,” it said.
They also said they took the necessary steps to make sure those games would be played.
“Canada Soccer has heard the women’s national team and has committed to a path to addressing each of the demands made by the players. But Canada Soccer knows that is not enough. There is still work to do.”
Canada Soccer also said that once concluded, it will be a ‘historic deal’ that will deliver real change and pay equity in Canadian Soccer. “It is a goal worth getting right,” they said.
Before an emergency meeting in Orlando with CSA general secretary Earl Cochrane, and President Nick Bontis, Sinclair and other players said they couldn’t represent the federation until the issue was resolved.
The women are asking for the same financial backing that the men got for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and want Canada Soccer to show them all the financials.
Usually, Canada Soccer releases fiscal statements in March, but Sinclair said the team can’t negotiate in the dark without knowing what was spent on the men’s team.
The governing body keeps mentioning that pay equity will be the pillar of the new deal.
Unfortunately, that has never happened: in 2021, Canada Soccer spent 11 million on the men’s team while only spending 5.1 on the women’s. Sinclair mentions 2.5 million of it came from Own The Podium, a Canadian non-profit organization.
She also pointed out that in 2021, the men played 19 games including 14 World Cup qualifiers while the women played 17 and won the gold medal in the Olympics.
“We are not mad at the men’s team. They deserve what they get. They deserved to be treated how they were treated last year [a World Cup year]. These teams deserve to have proper preparation for the biggest stage. We’re just asking for the same,” she said before Saturday’s meeting.
“The financial struggles of the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) didn’t just happen overnight. People made decisions in recent years that have put us here. And it just constantly seems like it’s the women’s team that has to take the brunt of it.”
Canada Soccer’s total income in 2021 was $33.1 million dollars, while it spent 28.1 million in expenses.
The women held two practice sessions wearing their shirts inside out in protest.
Canada Soccer released a statement on Friday after the players announced they were going on strike.
“We presented an equity-based proposal to our national teams and their counsel several months ago, and we are still waiting for a definitive response to the terms of that proposal,” the statement said.
Sinclair refutes that, saying that Canada Soccer had to pause the compensation package and restructure their latest offer.
“They flat-out just lied in their statement. … And now the public’s being lied to,” she said. “That’s how they operate.”
Sinclair, who is the world’s leading goal scorer and has made 319 caps for her country, claims that Canada Soccer has underestimated the women’s team.
“Our perspective is that they’ve always just assumed we would never take the next step. We’ve always tried to do things the nice, polite, right way, if you will. And it’s gotten us nowhere. If you look around women’s football in general, a lot of women’s teams have had to take this stand at some point to truly make a difference. And this is our time.”
She also said the men’s team is behind them as both teams are upset with the lack of financial transparency.
“We’re fighting for the future of this program,” added Sinclair.
The women are saying the number of players and staff have been cut, and the duration of the camps have been reduced as part of the cutbacks.
Sinclair also said the team has been told it will be shut down for the year after the World Cup and a two-legged playoff with Jamaica.
The women’s team, who flew to Orlando from Europe, were flown business class while the players in North America were supposed to be flown economy – though Beckie said she had to pay for her upgrade.
The hotel situation isn’t any better, as players are sharing rooms.
The team sent a list of demands last Thursday opting to take job action when it didn’t get a response which included a home game ahead of the World Cup. Initially, two of these had been planned for BC in April.
The men’s also made the following statement in defense of the women’s team.
“If the current leadership of Canada Soccer is not willing to take immediate action to respond to the players’ demands and concerns, we ask that the Minister of Sport, the Honourable Pascale St-Onge, intervene to remove them, and mandate that new Canada Soccer leadership be named and required to comply with its mandated objectives and all legal requirements, as supported by federal funding,”
Both the men and the women are currently negotiating labor agreements with Canada Soccer. The women’s deal expired at the end of 2021.
With tensions remaining high, Canada will face the US on Thursday night in the first game of the She Believes Cup. The match will be available live on OneSoccer.
Header Image Photo Credit: Canada Soccer