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Canada women’s national team threatens to strike

The players put Canada Soccer on blast for budget cuts in a World Cup year.

Canada v Sweden: Gold Medal Match Women’s Football - Olympics: Day 14 Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images

On Friday, OL Reign players Jordyn Huitema and Quinn joined their Canadian women’s national team counterparts in calling for a strike due to pay equity issues, financial transparency issues, and newly announced budget cuts.

The move comes less than a week before Canada is scheduled to play in the SheBelieves Cup alongside the U.S., Brazil, and Japan. The strike also comes five months before the Women’s World Cup. Canadian national team players Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie spoke about the action in an interview with TSN.

“We will not be taking part in any activities going forward,” said Beckie, with the players confirming that this includes training.

Ahead of the TSN interview, the players issued a statement on social media saying they are “outraged and deeply concerned with the news of significant cuts” to national team programs in advance of the upcoming 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 support its national teams,” the statement read.

The players’ statement says Canada Soccer has cut training camp days, full camp windows, and the number of players and staff invited into camps, in addition to scaling back funding for national youth teams. The players also say that the federation will not schedule any home friendlies before the World Cup. This comes despite the fact that Canada recently won a Gold Medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and interest in soccer is at an all-time high in the country with the men advancing to the 2022 World Cup.

“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,” the players said.

“It’s time for the world to know the truth about Canada Soccer,” Huitema said on Instagram when she shared the players’ statement.

The Canada men’s national team issued a statement in solidarity with the women, noting that “how Canada Soccer is allocating or using funds is unclear and cloaked in secrecy.” 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.”

The lack of transparency has been the sticking point for both teams. There have been repeated calls for months from the men’s and women’s national teams asking for financial records of Canada Soccer — noting they can’t negotiate a new contract without knowing how teams are being funded.

As several players noted on social media, financial statements they were able to obtain from Canada Soccer show an almost $6 million discrepancy in expenses spent on the men’s and women’s teams in 2021.

Both the men’s and women’s players have reinforced their call for an investigation into the federation’s relationship with Canada Soccer Business, a private entity that Canada Soccer uses to funnel all sponsorship revenue toward.

This isn’t the first time there’s been a dispute between the players and Canada Soccer. Last summer, the men’s national team refused to play a friendly against Panama and nearly forfeited a CONCACAF Nations League match against Curacao over a contract dispute.

Canada Soccer responded to the players’ statements with its own statement on Friday afternoon. “Pay equity for our Women’s National Team is at the core of our ongoing player negotiations,” the statement read. “Canada Soccer will not agree to any deal without it.”

“We have also previously informed our Women’s National Team that the ‘Friends and Family’ program, granted to our Men’s National Team in Qatar, will be replicated for our Women at the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand,” the statement continued.

These comments seem to ignore the core complaints raised by the players, who had receipts to highlight the discrepancies between what Canada Soccer says about equality and how they act. Several Canadian national team players shared a video of Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis saying, “But the other right thing to do is to make sure that whatever we pay the men, we pay the women. Because that’s the right thing to do.”

Former Reign and Canadian national team player Kaylyn Kyle also said in a tweet on Friday afternoon, “Imagine texting a former player of the women’s national team who has publicly criticized your leadership asking ‘how to make 2026 great’ and ask(ing) me nothing about the 2023 Women’s World Cup. That is not a leader nor someone that wants equality.”

Several NWSL and U.S. women’s national team players have come out in support of their Canadian frenemies. The NWSL Players Association shared the players’ statement on Twitter and added, “We stand in solidarity with the [Canadian players].”

“What do they have to do, win a gold medal? Sell out stadiums?” Alex Morgan asked sarcastically on Twitter before adding, “It’s 2023, wake up Canada Soccer.”

On Instagram Stories, Megan Rapinoe shared the players’ statement and added, “Bitter enemies on the field, deeper allyship off it.”

The players met with Canada Soccer on Saturday, where they were told their strike was unlawful and that Canada Soccer would sue the players if they didn’t train and take the field. The players issued a statement in the evening on Saturday, noting that they felt they had no other choice than to play in the tournament.

“As individual players who have received no compensation yet for any of our work for Canada Soccer in 2022, we cannot afford the risks that personal actions against us by Canada Soccer will create,” the players shared in a statement. The Canadian women’s national team played 17 matches in 2022, including World Cup qualifying.

The players will return to training on Sunday, according to the statement, in preparation for their Feb. 16 match against the United States. While the players have not indicated if any further protests or actions are planned, they will have a significant stage to make a statement — and plenty of support from the U.S. players.

“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.

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