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Canadian women’s soccer players’ concerns referred to as ‘bitching’ by ex-president, Christine Sinclair says

Members of the Olympic champion Canadian women’s soccer team told a committee of MPs Thursday that their program is being held back by a lack of support from their governing body.

The team, like its male counterpart, is embroiled in a bitter labour dispute with Canada Soccer, the sport’s governing body. Team captain Christine Sinclair and players Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt and Quinn brought their case before members of the heritage committee on Thursday.

“There is no greater honour as an athlete than to step on the competitive stage and represent our country,” Sinclair said in her opening remarks. “These have been some of the greatest moments of our lives. But they’ve not come without frustration.”

WATCH | ‘We don’t trust Canada Soccer:’ Christine Sinclair: 

canadian womens soccer players concerns referred to as bitching by ex president christine sinclair says

‘We don’t trust Canada Soccer:’ Christine Sinclair testifies at committee on sport safety

9 hours ago

Duration 0:44

Addressing a heritage committee hearing looking into safe sports, Women’s Team Canada captain Christine Sinclair describes a meeting she and her teammates had with executives of Canada Soccer to negotiate their compensation.

The players gave a scathing review of Canada Soccer, saying the organization paid male players five times as much as it did players on the women’s team in 2021. But they said pay equity is only a part of their fight.

They said the women’s program overall receives less support. They said the team has been holding training camps without fully staffed medical and training teams.

“We as players sometimes have to make choices about which medical treatments to receive when staff physiotherapists are stretched,” Quinn said. They added that the team also has had to cut the number of players at camp, making it unable to run full field drills.

Members of the women’s team say they want the same support and backing ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as the men’s team received before its soccer showcase last year in Qatar. Both teams want Canada Soccer to open its books and explain why its programs are being cut this year.

Julia Grosso of Canada celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning penalty in the shootout of the gold medal game at the Tokyo Olympics.
Julia Grosso of Canada celebrates with teammates after scoring the winning penalty in the shootout in the gold medal game at the Tokyo Olympics. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

“We’ve … been successful with less and have been expected to do more with less,” Beckie said. “We’re so sick and tired of having to fight the same battle.”

Sinclair told the committee she brought the team’s concerns to former Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis last year but was largely ignored.

“The president of Canada Soccer listened to what I had to say and then later in the meeting referred back to it as, ‘What was it Christine was bitching about?'” Sinclair said.

The women’s team members, whose previous labour deal expired at the end of 2021, have struck an agreement in principle with Canada Soccer on compensation for 2022 but say other issues have yet to be resolved.

MP calls situation an ’embarrassment’ 

Conservative MP and committee member Kevin Waugh said the way the team is being treated is an “embarrassment.”

“I have a granddaughter playing soccer because of you,” he said. “It’s not because of the men’s team. It’s not because of [Canada Soccer]. It’s because of the Canadian women’s soccer team — what you’ve accomplished in the last ten plus years.”

Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner noted the meeting was taking place the day after International Women’s Day and asked the players if they could think of any rational reason why Canada Soccer would provide less support to the women’s team.

“Does it cost less to train women players?” Hepfner asked.

“No. We play with the same sized ball, we kick at the same sized goal, we play on the same sized field, we play for the same amount of minutes,” Beckie responded.

WATCH | Former player sounds off on pay inequity:

canadian womens soccer players concerns referred to as bitching by ex president christine sinclair says 2

Canadian women’s soccer players sound off on pay inequity

7 hours ago

Duration 4:53

Members of Parliament were ‘gobsmacked’ at the testimony from the national women’s soccer team detailing the lack of funding, transparency and equality that they receive compared to the men’s teams, says a former women’s team player.

The players also said that the issues with Canada Soccer go beyond the national team. Schmidt told MPs that the organization is responsible for developing women’s soccer in Canada, but has cut youth programming.

“Canada Soccer treats the women’s game as an afterthought,” she said, adding that failure to develop the game would put the future of the national team at risk.

“The system for developing players is broken and women are making the national team by chance, not by design,” she said.

Canada Soccer released details of its proposed collective bargaining agreement with both national teams on Thursday, saying it’s time to get a deal done.

“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,” Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane said in a media statement.

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.

But Canada Soccer acknowledges that equal pay does not mean equal dollars when it comes to team budgets, saying the competitive calendar and the FIFA World Cup qualification pathway for the men comes with “very different costs.”

The players were asked what they made of Canada Soccer’s preemptive release of the proposed agreement.

Beckie said they felt “disrespected” by the release of information that was meant to be kept at the bargaining table, adding that some of the information released by Canada Soccer on Thursday was new to them. She said she would say no more on the matter.

“We don’t feel it’s the right place to stoop down to that level,” she said. “We’re here to speak about this [equity] issue.”

Canada Soccer officials are due to appear before the committee on March 20.

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