The Canadian women’s national soccer team is on strike following cuts to its program and pay equity concerns, captain Christine Sinclair told Canada’s The Sports Network (TSN).
On February 10, the players released a statement on Twitter, criticizing the sport’s governing body Canada Soccer, stating players were told the organization “cannot adequately fund the Women’s National Team,” five months before the Women’s World Cup.
“As a team, we’ve decided to take job action,” Sinclair told TSN, “and from this moment on will not be participating in any Canadian Soccer Association activities until this is resolved.
“It hurts, I’m not going to lie,” she added. “But it’s gotten to a point where, at least for me personally, until this is resolved I can’t represent this federation. I’m such a competitor that breaks my heart and kills me…”
Canada Soccer said in a statement that pay equity “is at the core of our ongoing player negotiations,” and that it has “already issued a mutually-agreed to retroactive payment.”
It added that it had “presented an equity-based proposal to our national teams and their counsel several months ago, and we are still waiting for a definitive response to the terms of that proposal.”
The players said that they had been negotiating with Canada Soccer for more than a year and are now “being told to prepare to perform at a world-class level without the same level of support that was received by the Men’s National Team in 2022.”
Training camps have been cut for the women’s team, as well as the number of players and staff invited and the already limited youth program, the players’ statement said.
“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,” it added.
CNN has reached out to Canada Soccer and Sport Canada for comment but had not received a response by the time of publication.
Canada, the reigning women’s soccer Olympic champion, is scheduled to face the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) on February 16th in its first match of the SheBelieves Cup.
Several players inside and outside of Canada expressed their own frustration with Canada Soccer.
USWNT striker Alex Morgan asked: “What do they have to do, win a gold medal? Sell out stadiums?” while Canadian winger Adriana Leon tweeted: “At a loss for words for how Canada Soccer continues to conduct themselves and how they continue to get away with it… With the current governance, I worry for future generations…Where is the money going???”
Players from the Men’s National Team also released their own statement via midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, “wholeheartedly” supporting the Women’s National Team.
They too went on strike in June last year ahead of a friendly with Panama due to a dispute over player compensation.
Both teams called on Sport Canada, a branch of the country’s federal government, in July to investigate Canada Soccer following serious allegations about the way decisions are made within the organization.
They were prompted by a TSN report which, citing four unnamed sources, found that Canada Soccer was unable to adequately compensate players due to a contract it signed with a private company Canada Soccer Business (CSB), which keeps a large share of the revenue generated by national teams.
At the time, Canada Soccer told CNN that the negotiations with its national teams “have no bearing on the CSB agreement voted on and passed by our Board.”
The Canadian Premier League, which launched Canadian Soccer Business in 2018, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment at the time.
The Men’s National Team statement released on Friday added that “Canada Soccer has consistently refused or blatantly ignored our Players Association’s requests for access to its financial records,” and demanded that the organization “explain what has happened to millions of dollars that it should be receiving each year from sponsors and other sources.”
Both statements released by the men’s and women’s teams called for new leadership at Canada Soccer if it is “not willing” or able to support the players.
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt contributed reporting.