Canada men’s soccer game canceled as players demand more money


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A men’s soccer match Sunday between Canada and Panama was canceled two hours before it was set to begin after Canada’s players refused to take the field because of a dispute over contract negotiations.

Canada has qualified for the World Cup for only the second time, but its players say the country’s soccer association, Canada Soccer, dragged its feet on contract negotiations and did not present an offer until Thursday.

In a letter, Canada’s players called that contract offer “archaic.” They are asking for an “equitable structure with our women’s national team that shares the same player match fees, percentage of prize money earned at our respective FIFA World Cups and the development of a women’s domestic league,” as well as 40 percent of the team’s World Cup prize money.

“We want to apologize to our fans,” the team wrote. “Playing at home with your support, is everything to us. We hope Canada Soccer will take decisive steps to work with our team so we can be back on the field for our match on June 9,” a reference to the team’s scheduled CONCACAF Nations League game against Curaçao in Vancouver.

Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis told reporters Sunday night that the organization was “disappointed” with the team’s decision not to play and apologized to the team’s fans.

“Canada Soccer has been working with the players in good faith to find a path forward that is fair and equitable to all,” Bontis said. “We would like to have a facts-based discussion within the fiscal reality that Canada Soccer has to live with every day. Canada Soccer is committed to the principles of fairness and equity and we believe we presented a fair offer to the players. We benchmarked our offer against other national teams from around the world.”

The Canadian women’s team is also negotiating its contract with Canada Soccer, and in a statement Sunday night it said it will “not accept an agreement that does not offer equal pay” with the men’s team. Like the men, the women’s team is asking Canada Soccer to give its players more information about its financial situation, particularly regarding its agreement with Canada Soccer Business, an entity launched in 2018 to run the country’s top domestic league and handle Canada Soccer’s commercial rights and corporate partnerships.

According to reports, Canada Soccer Business — “which is tied to the owners of the five-year-old Canadian Premier League” — keeps much of the revenue generated by the national teams, a framework that Bontis defended.

“Canada Soccer’s relationship with Canada Soccer Business has been pivotal in building soccer and growing the game in this country,” Bontis said. “They have invested substantial funds and support to promote soccer in this country at a critical time for its growth. In partnership together, we have built a men’s professional league in this country, creating a domestic pathway for soccer talent from across Canada.”

Per TSN, Canada Soccer is set to receive more than $10 million from FIFA after qualifying for the World Cup (teams get more the further they advance in the tournament, with the winning team receiving $42 million). In its first contract offer to the players, Canada Soccer proposed giving them 10 percent of that money, adding that the players are demanding between 75 percent and 100 percent. Bontis called that proposal “untenable,” and that Canada Soccer countered with a proposal of “60 per cent of the FIFA World Cup prize money to be split between the two National Teams.”

Last month, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced a new labor deal with its men’s and women’s national teams that closed the pay gap between the two sides. The U.S. teams will pool the World Cup bonuses received from FIFA and split them equally. Previously, the men’s team received much higher World Cup bonuses than the women’s team — even though the latter was far more successful on the global stage — because FIFA pays much larger sums to men’s teams, citing the fact that the men’s tournament generates substantially more revenue.

The good feelings engendered by Canada’s first World Cup appearance since 1986 have been at least partially diminished, and not only because of the pay dispute. Sunday’s canceled game against Panama was itself a replacement. Canada originally was scheduled to face Iran, but that match was called off amid criticism of the decision to schedule that opponent.


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