Canada Soccer released part of its proposed collecting bargaining agreement with the men’s and women’s national teams on Thursday, saying it’s time to get a deal done.
The move was essentially a pre-emptive strike, coming hours before captain Christine Sinclair and three other members of the Canadian women’s team aired their grievances before a parliamentary committee.
Canada Soccer says its proposed labour deal would pay both teams the same match fee, with the squads sharing equally in competition prize money. And it says the Olympic champion women’s team would become the second-highest-paid women’s national squad among FIFA’s 211 member associations, presumably behind the top-ranked U.S.
The governing body says the deal in front of the players “demonstrates Canada Soccer’s commitment to its core principle that if you are a Canada Soccer national team player — regardless of your gender — you will be paid the same for the work you do competing and representing our country.”
“It is time to get a deal done,” Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane said in the statement. “We’ve been negotiating in good faith and want to get to a resolution with our national teams. In order to get there, we need both of our national teams to agree. Our women deserve to be paid equally and they deserve the financial certainty going into the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (this summer in Australia and New Zealand).”
But Canada Soccer acknowledges that equal pay does not mean equal dollars when it comes to team budgets, saying the competitive calendar and FIFA World Cup qualification pathway for the men comes with “very different costs” than that of the women.
Still, Canada Soccer says from 2012-19 it spent $37,423,185 on all of its men’s teams in total staffing and program costs compared to $37,073,407 on all women’s teams over the same eight-year period.
Unlike the men, the senior women took part in two World Cups and two Olympics during that time frame.
Under the proposed Canada Soccer deal, players will receive a $3,500 appearance fee per game plus win bonuses up to $5,500 per player depending on the rank of the opponent. Each team would receive $1.15 million for World Cup qualification.
As to the US$9 million in FIFA prize money that the men’s team earned in Qatar, Canada Soccer proposes that 40 percent (approximately US$3.6 million) go into a combined prize pool along with as much as 75 percent of the Women’s World Cup prize money earned (estimated to be between US$1 million and US$4 million, depending on how far the team goes in the tournament).
The two teams reportedly asked to equally share 80 per cent stake of Qatar prize money.
Canada Soccer says total player compensation for the men from 2012 to 2019 was $2.92 million, compared to $2.96 million for the women over the same period.
Acceptance of the proposed deal could mean $10.29 million in total player compensation for the men from 2020 to 2023, depending on on-field success, and $9.64 million for the women over the same period, according to Canada Soccer.
It also says Canadian Soccer Business is willing to amend its controversial agreement with the governing body.
CSB essentially markets Canada’s soccer product, via broadcast and sponsorship agreements.
It pays the governing body a set amount each year with the rest helping fund the men’s Canadian Premier League. Canada Soccer, which does not hold an ownership stake in CSB, is reportedly receiving $3 million to $4 million a year currently under the deal as “the beneficiary of a rights fee guarantee.”
CSB CEO Mark Noonan, who doubles as the CPL commissioner, has not confirmed the financial arrangements, but has said the annual guarantee is “three times what Canada Soccer was making commercially back in 2018 when nobody was willing to take a risk.”
The five-page Canada Soccer statement preceded testimony by Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt and Quinn, who goes by one name, before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The four, who are the women’s team player representatives, have made a combined 732 appearances for Canada the senior level.
Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge welcomed hearing the players give their side of the story.
“A lot of the problems I feel that we have in sport these days is the fact that the athletes’ voices weren’t heard enough,” she told reporters after Thursday’s cabinet meeting.
“I think it’s extremely important, because there’s been a lot of questions raised, and I feel like there is many (a) blind spot in this story,” she added.
Canada Soccer officials are due to appear before the parliamentary committee on March 20.
As to a list of grievances from the women’s team last month, Canada Soccer says it has agreed to or is “currently addressing” all nine demands.
They range from a comparable budget to the men’s team for World Cup preparation to business class travel, single room occupancy and a team chef at the World Cup — like the men — through December 2023. They also want at least one home game before the World Cup.
Canada Soccer says it is hiring a new chief commercial officer and setting up a new department to oversee “the foundational and philanthropic efforts for the association” to help raise funds to pay for the proposed labour deal.
The women, who formed the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association in 2016, have been without a labour deal since the last one expired at the end of 2021. They have struck an agreement in principle with Canada Soccer on compensation for 2022 but say other issues have yet to be resolved.
The men, who organized last summer as the Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association, are working on their first formal labour agreement.