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Recap: CanWNT Players Testify To Heritage Committee

By on March 10, 2023 0 956 Views

This Thursday afternoon in front of the Heritage Committee Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt, and Quinn gave their testimony and did their best to answer questions regarding the team’s pay equity dispute with Canada Soccer.

The process took two hours and the four player-reps had nothing but anger and frustration to show toward Canada Soccer for cutting huge portions of its budget.

Sinclair opened with the following statement: “As the popularity, interest, and growth of the women’s game have swept the globe, our most painstaking battle has been with our own federation and trying to obtain fair and equitable treatment in the way we are supported and the way we are paid,” she said.

Canada Soccer has been negotiating, according to the players, in the dark. It has led to quite a bit of turmoil.

Canada Soccer Nick Bontis
Previous interactions with former CSA President Nick Bontis (pictured) came up. (Photo Credit: Martin Bazyl / Canada Soccer)

Sinclair gave her story of dealing with now the former Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis.

“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,” she said. “I was tasked with outlining our compensation ask on behalf of the women’s national team. The president of Canada Soccer listened to what I had to say, and then later referred back to it as, quote ‘What was it Christine was bitching about?’

“To me, this spoke volumes about the lack of respect Canada Soccer has for its women’s national team. As a team, we do not trust Canada Soccer to be open and honest as we continue to negotiate for not only fair and equitable compensation and treatment, but for the future of our program.”

In regards to Canada Soccer’s sudden release of its proposed agreement, sent just hours before the testimonies, Sinclair said the players were not aware and Beckie said the move was disrespectful.

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh said it was disgusting to make the details public right before the hearing. “We feel quite disrespected by the way they went about their business,” Beckie said of the release. “But we also don’t feel that it’s the right place to stoop down to that level, if you will. We’re here to speak about this issue, and we believe that what was talked about in good-faith bargaining between our players’ association and the association should have stayed between the players’ association and the Canadian Soccer Association. We feel quite disrespected that it wasn’t respected that it stayed behind closed doors before that agreement was actually signed. There were terms and numbers and pieces of what was in their statement today that have not even been communicated to us. So, that was a bit of a shock to us.”

“We have been successful not because of our federation, but actually in spite of our federation for so many years. We are so sick and tired… of having to scratch and claw for transparency.”

The players are also demanding to see the details of the Canada Soccer Business deal and the committee says they have the power to get it.

The agreement essentially pays Canada Soccer a guaranteed fee from 2019-2027 for the rights to sell broadcasting and corporate sponsorship.

Photo Credit: Canada Soccer

Back in 2019, that was three million dollars. The CSB has the right to extend the deal for another 10 years, at which point the fee would go up to four million from 2028-2037.

“This was our own association blatantly betting against the success of its national teams,” Beckie testified. “We don’t know why Canada Soccer did this deal. Either they had no idea it was a terrible deal for Canada Soccer or they knew it was a terrible deal and they did it anyway. Each of these options is unthinkable.”

Quinn spoke about the budget cuts affecting players who need to be treated when therapists are stretched.

“[Budget cuts] compromise our training, our rehabilitation, and our preparation,” Quinn said. “It means we as players sometimes have to make choices about which medical treatments to receive when staff physiotherapists are stretched…”

The players were asked if they have confidence in Charmaine Crooks the interim president and they all said no.

“Obviously, being females we appreciate seeing Charmaine in [that] position,” Sinclair said. “However, she has been part of the higher-ups in Canada Soccer for a long time and during her tenure, she has shown nothing to the women’s national team that proves she’s there fighting for us. In fact, since she’s been elected president she’s not reached out. Her first action involving the women’s national team was to release that statement earlier today.”

Canada Sports Minister Pasca St Onge reached out to the players in regard to an audit but the players didn’t go through as FIFA has strict government interference rules and they feared being punished by FIFA.

Former Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis and current general secretary Earl Cocharane are scheduled to appear in front of the same committee on March 20th, and more meetings could happen after that.

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