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Ongoing labour dispute boils over as Canadian soccer teams slam Canada Soccer

Both men’s and women’s teams have been embroiled in labour talks for months
Players of Canada pose with their gold medals after defeating Sweden in the women’s final soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. The Canadian women’s soccer team has slammed Canada Soccer, saying it is “outraged and deeply concerned with the news of significant cuts” to national team programs for 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Andre Penner

The ongoing labour dispute between Canada Soccer and its men’s and women’s teams boiled over Friday with threats of job action from the women and a call for Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge to step in from the men.

“Enough is enough,” women’s captain Christine Sinclair said in a social media post.

The two teams laid out a list of grievances in separate open letters posted on social media.

The women’s team said it is “outraged and deeply concerned with the news of significant cuts” to national team programs as it prepares for this summer’s World Cup.

“With the biggest tournament in women’s football history less than six months away, our preparation for the World Cup and the future success of the women’s national team’s program are being compromised by Canada Soccer’s continued inability to supports its national teams,” the women said in a statement posted on social media.

“Despite our strong track record of success and history-making achievements for more than a decade, we continue to be told there is not enough money to adequately fund our program and our youth teams.”

Both teams have been embroiled in labour talks for months with Canada Soccer. The Canadian men refused to play a planned friendly in Vancouver last summer because of their unhappiness at the state of the negotiations, which included division of prize money from the men’s World Cup in Qatar.

The sixth-ranked women say they are being told “to perform at a world-class level without the same level of support that was received by the men’s national team in 2022, and with significant cuts to our program — to simply make do with less.”

The women say the number of players and staff coming to camp has been cut, as have training camp days.

“We have been told, quite literally, that Canada Soccer cannot adequately fund the women’s national team, and they have waited to tell us this until now, when we are less than six months from the World Cup.”

Both programs and their associated youth teams have had their budgets “substantially cut,” the 53rd-ranked men said.

“How Canada Soccer is allocating or using funds is unclear and cloaked in secrecy,” their statement said.

The men’s statement said Canada Soccer has “consistently refused or blatantly ignored our Players Association’s requests for access to its financial records to back up its claims that it does not have the funds to properly operate Canada Soccer or fairly compensate the players.”

“If the current leadership of Canada Soccer is not willing to take immediate action to respond to the players’ demands and concerns, we ask that the Minister of Sport, the Honourable Pascale St-Onge, intervene to remove them, and mandate that new Canada Soccer leadership be named and required to comply with its mandated objectives and all legal requirements, as supported by federal funding,” the men said.

Canada Soccer did not immediately respond for a request for comment.

The women’s statement, posted by the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association (CSPA) which represents the women’s team, came with the headline: “The time is now, we are taking job action.”

The statement did not specify the job action but called for “new leadership” if the governing body is “not willing or able” to support the team.

“We are committed to do whatever it takes to create public awareness of this crisis and to force Canada Soccer to start to support the national teams properly.”

The Canadian women are scheduled to open play Feb. 16 at the SheBelieves Cup against the top-ranked U.S. in Orlando. The four-team tournament is part of Canada’s preparation for the World Cup, which kicks off July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

Earl Cochrane, Canada Soccer’s general secretary, was to meet the women in Florida in a previously arranged meeting.

Canada Soccer has said that there will be pay equity in the new deals struck with the men and women.

“We are tired — tired of constantly having to fight for fair and equal treatment, and for a program that will give us a chance to achieve what we know this team is capable of achieving for Canada,” the women said in their statement.

—Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press