Christine Sinclair and fellow Canadian women’s national team players addressed the Canadian government on Thursday to speak about pay equity, equal treatment, and other issues surrounding Canada Soccer.
Players from both the women’s and men’s national teams have been at odds with Canada for quite some time. The reigning Olympic gold medallist women’s team called out Canada Soccer’s leadership last month, and threatened to go on strike over concerns regarding equality with the men’s team.
MPs sitting on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage questioned Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt, and Quinn for two hours. Yet, the opening statements were the most powerful.
Sinclair, soccer’s all-time leading international goalscorer, recalled negotiating with Canada Soccer and former CSA 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,” Sinclair said.
“I was tasked with outlining our compensation ask on behalf of the Women’s National Team. The president of Canada Soccer [Nick Bontis] listened to what I had to say and then later in the meeting 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.”
“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, but for the future of our program.”
– Christine Sinclair in her opening statement to the Parliamentary Heritage Committee pic.twitter.com/xBeFD727cN
— Tim and Friends (@timandfriends) March 9, 2023
Bontis resigned from his role at Canada Soccer on February 27 but has been personally subpoenaed by the Heritage Committee to testify on his role in the negotiations.
“Canada Soccer treats the women’s game as an afterthought”
Canada’s women’s and men’s national team players have been at odds with Canada Soccer over the last several years. However, it came to light in June 2022 when the men’s team boycotted a friendly match against Panama in Vancouver.
The crux of the issue is that Canada Soccer has a contract with a business called Canadian Soccer Business (CSB), which sells marketing and broadcast rights to CSB in exchange for a guaranteed annual payment to Canada Soccer. Simply, the success of the men’s and women’s teams does not trigger greater compensation for Canada Soccer, instead siphoning revenues to CSB.
The core issue concerns Canada Soccer’s agreement with Canadian Soccer Business, an organization which takes all revenue from Canada Soccer’s sponsorship and broadcast deals in exchange for a guaranteed annual payment to Canada Soccer.
“It’s been widely reported that this [CSB] deal is confusing,” Beckie told the committee. “I think that we have to trust our instincts when we see details of this deal come to the public that it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Sinclair also spoke of how the deal doesn’t provide much funding to women’s soccer, as CSB primarily provides funds towards the Canadian Premier League, a men’s professional setup.
“There’s nothing equal in place for women,” Sinclair said.
Last month, the women’s national team went on a brief strike at the SheBelieves Cup tournament. However, the association threatened legal action forcing the players to play.
“Canada Soccer treats the women’s game as an afterthought,” Schmidt told the committee. “It has failed to put in place any structure, resources or plan for the development and future success of the women’s game in this country.”
The @USWNT and @CANWNT players locked arms before kickoff at the SheBelieves Cup.
Canada players wore “Enough is Enough” shirts in protest after citing budget cuts, equal pay issues and an overall lack of support from Canada Soccer as reasons for their “job action." pic.twitter.com/jSz5Ve2bQz
— ESPN (@espn) February 17, 2023
The question period with the Heritage Committee will not be the last for Canada Soccer. The women continue to fight for pay equity and equal treatment. The men’s and women’s national teams are trying to work towards a deal with the association that pleases all parties.
“We play with the same size ball, on the same size field, for the same time. In another avenue of work, you sit at the same desk as your counterparts,” Beckie said. “We are sick and tired of having to scratch and claw for transparency.”
Canada Soccer leadership is set to testify to the committee on March 20, and more sessions are also expected.