Canada Soccer says it has agreed in principle with its women’s national team on a compensation deal, a first step in thawing the icy divide between the two sides and addressing the players’ calls for equality.
The national governing body says its interim-funding agreement with the women mirrors a deal with the men’s national team, including per-game incentives and results-based compensation that match what the men receive.
The deal was announced late Thursday in a short statement from Canada Soccer and approved by the women’s team. Lawyers from the two sides are still finalizing the details.
While it marks progress, the work is far from over. This deal is separate from an overarching collective agreement, which has been in negotiation for months, between Canada Soccer and its men’s and women’s national teams, and aims to deliver pay equity. What happens to FIFA prize money – including the US$9-million earned by Canada’s men at the World Cup in Qatar – is a big piece of that conversation.
This interim-funding agreement for the women focuses on compensation for 2022. Their last deal ran out at the end of 2021, so the women didn’t get paid last year while negotiating these new terms. This was labelled an interim deal because some terms could change as the final details of the collective agreement are decided.
“This is about respect, this is about dignity, and this is about equalizing the competitive environment in a world that is fundamentally unequal,” Earl Cochrane, Canada Soccer’s general secretary, said in the statement. “We have been consistent and public about the need to have fairness and equal pay be pillars of any new agreements with our players, and we are delivering on that today. While this is an important step forward, and it signals progress, there is still more work to do to ensure both of our national programs are given the necessary resources and supports to prepare and compete.”
The statement did not include any comment from the players. They did not immediately respond to The Globe and Mail’s request for comment through their lawyer.
The women have said they are seeking the same support at their World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand as the men received in Qatar. Both national teams also sought an explanation for why their programs are subject to budget cuts this year, especially disappointing to the reigning Olympic-champion women just months away from their biggest tournament.
It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for soccer in Canada. The women’s team announced on Feb. 10 that they were going on strike at the SheBelieves Cup in Florida, before Canada Soccer swiftly threatened legal action that forced them back on the pitch. It had been a flurry of statements from both sides since.
The men and women demanded Canada Soccer provide more financial transparency, including its agreement with Canadian Soccer Business, a private company that arranges the sponsorship and broadcast deals. In exchange, CSB pays Canada Soccer a set fee each year and keeps the rest, which helps finance the Canadian Premier League.
This week, Nick Bontis, amid calls from national team players and provincial soccer leaders demanding his resignation, stepped down as Canada Soccer’s president. On Wednesday, Charmaine Crooks was promoted from the VP’s chair to the acting president’s job. She is a five-time Canadian Olympic track athlete, a business professional and the first female and person of colour to lead the organization.
Yet earlier Thursday, before word of this new agreement emerged, the men’s and women’s national teams issued a joint statement calling Soccer Canada’s change in leadership “one necessary step” and asked the board of directors “to consult immediately and meaningfully with the national team on the best path forward, before Mr. Bontis’s permanent successor is named.”
In that earlier statement, the players also said Canada Soccer should “take immediate action to address the untenable financial constraints imposed by its agreement with Canada Soccer Business.”