Kruk: ‘Our Players Are Not Golden Spoon Athletes’
This morning it was announced that PFA Canada is now officially a candidate member of FIFPRO, which means that the union aiming to collectively represent Canadian Premier League athletes is now a part of a global organization that oversees some 64 member unions and over 65,000 professional athletes.
It’s a move that puts pressure on the Canadian Premier League to recognize the union or, at least, begin discussions with them – something that CPL Commissioner David Clanachan implied would happen after The Island Games bubble tournament last year.
Following today’s announcement, PFA Canada Executive Director Dan Kruk has wasted little time in driving the point home for fans of the domestic game: with a large portion of the league’s domestic players earning the equivalent to or less than minimum wage, he went on the record with FIFPRO to called the numbers frankly ‘insane’.
Our players are not golden spoon athletes. They are not taking in hundreds of thousands of dollars a season. These are real working people.Dan Kruk
The union states that establishing a league-wide minimum salary is one of the main issues on its agenda. Earlier this year, PFA Canada disclosed that over half the athletes in the Canadian Premier League made under $22,000, with many player salaries even dropping below $15,000.
While minimum wage numbers vary from province to province, Kruk noted that in many cases most were making minimum wage salaries and, evidently, some far less than that. Kruk said he doesn’t know how some players ultimately get by on their current salaries.
Beyond that, our own discussions with athletes from coast-to-coast reavealed that many are on nine month contracts, meaning players are forced to either find second jobs during the offseason or go on unemployment insurance. It’s a precarious way to live, and one some veterans with overseas experience described as something that would need to change if the league didn’t want more players taking an early leave from the beautiful game.
While the league hopes to establish a minimum salary that will likely see all players take home a living wage, it also hopes to help induce higher average wages from coast-to-coast. To help achieve that goal, the union says it can help improve freedom of movement and arbitration processes within the Canadian Premier League.
According to PFA Canada’s legal counsel, Paul Champ, he has heard claims that CPL sides have colluded with one another to encourage athletes to re-sign on existing contract offers and prevent certain roster moves from taking place.
Clubs agree with each other which players they will or will not negotiate with. That is collusion. It interferes with the player’s right to negotiate with any club.Paul Champ
Anecdotally, this is something that Northern Tribune has heard from a handful of players, one of whom described their own experience with club collusion as having taken place within the current offseason.
In terms of the arbitration process, players who enter into a formal dispute must go to the CPL Commissioner David Clanachan under the current structure. If an athlete complains about something that the league itself may have imposed, of course, it’s fair to say that the league’s own commissioner isn’t exactly an independent arbitrator.
If you want to claim that your club has breached your contract by unilaterally cutting your pay with 25%, then you have to bring that case to the commissioner who directed that pay cut. That is another example of the unfairness that players are facing.Paul Champ
It was that exact pay cut – and the way it was delivered, with many players finding out over social media before their clubs held meetings to inform them – that initially encouraged PFA Canada to make itself public last April.
The early retirement of the likes of Luca Gasparotto and Dylan Carreiro has brought issues with player wages to the forefront of discussion in recent times, with PFA Canada also stating that some clubs under-spent their salary caps by up to $250,000 on average in 2019, while many of the league’s athletes earned what equates to less than minimum wage.
With FIFPRO now officially recognizing PFA Canada as a candidate member, the organization states that it’s looking forward to negotiating the first-ever collective agreement for footballers in Canada.
To do that, the Canadian Premier League will need to sit down with PFA Canada and, as a first step, officially recognize the union. Last August, Clanachan deferred that potential conversation by stating that the CPL would ‘do the right’ thing after The Island Games. According to players, a video chat with Clanachan mid-tournament saw him once again promise to discuss that possibility with them after the tournament, though PFA Canada states that it still has yet to receive an official communication from the commissioner.
Of course, it’s not just the Canadian Premier League that PFA Canada seeks to represent: it wants to represent elite level Canadian talent from coast-to-coast, and that includes plans to further its relationship with the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team Players’ Association and negotiate a contract for the men’s national team, too.
With today’s confirmation that PFA Canada will now have the full backing of FIFPRO as a candidate member, it’ll be interesting to see how the league responds (if it does) to the union.