Legal threat persuades Canadian women to suspend strike action ahead of SheBelieves Cup

February 13 – Canada will play in the SheBelieves Cup after Canada Soccer threatened legal action against the women’s national team players. They had threatened strike action but have now returned to training ahead of the tournament.

The decision to strike was over a lack of pay equality and what the team viewed as unsatisfactory preparation plans for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

But with the national federation threatening litigation, the team has returned to the pitch and training camp in Florida before the SheBelieves curtain raiser in Orlando against the US on February 16.

“To be clear. We are being forced back to work for the short term,” said captain Christine Sinclair said in a social media post. “This is not over. We will continue to fight for everything we deserve and we will win. The SheBelieves is being played in protest.”

The team said they could not risk the legal action “as individual players who have received no compensation yet for any of our work for Canada Soccer in 2022.”

On Friday, the team had announced a strike over pay equality, cutbacks to the programme and poor preparations for the Women’s World Cup later this year. The team still does not have home friendlies lined up for the 32-team tournament.

They released the following statement: “We, the Women’s National Soccer Team players, are demanding immediate change. Canada Soccer must live up to its public commitment to gender equality and its obligation as the national governing body for soccer in Canada to advance the sport, not drag it down. We expect and deserve nothing less than to be treated equally and fairly and to have our program – and our World Cup preparations – funded appropriately.”

The latest fiasco is another embarrassment for the executives at Canada Soccer. The organisation said it will address “each of the demands made by the players. But Canada Soccer knows that is not enough”.

It is the second time the governing body’s chairman Nick Bontis and general secretary Earl Cochrane have been at the centre of a player revolt. Before the World Cup in Qatar last year, the same issues arose with the men’s national team. The Canadians went on to boycott a friendly international against Panama in the build-up to the finals.

The men’s team released a statement in support of their female counterparts. It read: ‘How Canada Soccer is allocating or using funds is unclear and cloaked in secrecy. Despite the funding from FIFA and substantially increased sponsor and fan interest following the Men’s National Team qualification for and participation in the 2022 World Cup, Canada Soccer principal revenue streams have been in large part diverted to Canada Soccer Business to benefit of the owners of for-profit minor league professional soccer teams …”

In 2018, Canada Soccer signed a 10-year agreement with Canada Soccer Business (CSB) which gave CSB the rights for all corporate partnerships and broadcasting rights for the men’s and women’s national team programs. The deal came on the eve of the launch of Canadian Premier Soccer League (CPL), the country’s top flight. CSB is made up of CPL owners.

Canadian football has been enjoying a golden age: last year the men’s team featured for the first time at a World Cup since 1986 and the women’s team won Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020. In 2026, the Canadians will be one of three hosts for the expanded 48-team men’s World Cup.

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