It was a eureka moment for the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT). In November the team earned more money – $6.5 million – from its male equivalent reaching the knockout stages of Qatar 2022 than it did from winning its own World Cup tournaments in 2015 and 2019.
However, for other national women’s teams the fight over equal pay and treatment rages on.
So much so that disconsolate players on some top-ranked teams are trying to take power into their own hands and use the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which kicks off on July 20, as leverage.
In recent months, players from Canada, France, and Spain – teams that are ranked in the world’s top 10 – have confronted their federations’ perceived lack of support.
Last month, the Canadian Women’s National Team attempted to boycott the SheBelieves tournament hosted by the USWNT in the US in February, but resumed training after the sport’s governing body Canada Soccer threatened legal action.
Meanwhile France and Spain could be without a number of leading players for the Women’s World Cup after they stepped away from national team selection.
Playing in a World Cup is the pinnacle of every soccer player’s career. Yet these players and teams risk sacrificing an opportunity that only comes around every four years to fight for what they view as respect of future generations of players.
We’ve been here before. The USWNT went on strike before winning gold at the 1996 Olympics, and would go on strike again before the 2000 Olympics.
USWNT great Brandi Chastain, who won the Women’s World Cup in 1999, told CNN there’s always been “a lot of systematic, cultural, and societal bias” in women’s soccer.
“It’s not that we want the equal pay because we want the money, it’s we want the treatment that humans expect and deserve,” said Chastain, who scored the winning penalty shootout kick to win the 1999 Women’s World Cup for the USWNT. She then tore off her shirt and fell to her knees in celebration – which has been called one of the most iconic moments in sports history.
The Canadian players have contrasted their treatment with the Canadian Men’s National Team, who played in the 2022 World Cup, saying that they “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 reigning Olympic champions said in a statement announcing their strike last month that their future success is being “compromised by Canada Soccer’s continued inability to support its national teams.”
“We are tired – tired of constantly having to fight for fair and equal treatment,” the statement reads. “This lack of support threatens to reverse the progress we’ve made as a soccer nation and to send us back to obscurity.”
After they were forced to end their strike at the SheBelieves Cup, the players protested by wearing their practice jerseys inside out to hide the Canada crest. Before each game they wore bright purple shirts that said, “Enough is Enough.”
“We’re not backing down, we are going to keep the message out there until things change,” team captain Christine Sinclaire told media during the tournament.
Days later Canada Soccer’s president Nick Bontis resigned saying, “I have been one of the biggest proponents of equalizing the competitive performance environment for our Women’s National Team,” but acknowledged “this moment requires change.”
In a joint statement, the women’s and men’s team called Bontis’ resignation “one necessary step to ensure the future success” of their programs, and the “survival and growth of soccer in Canada for generations to come.”
They said the next president must share both the women’s and men’s teams’ commitment to ensuring they have “the resources and support they need to compete on the world stage.”
The same day the joint statement was released, Canada Soccer announced an interim funding agreement with the Women’s Team for 2022, saying the deal mirrors the men’s team’s terms which includes “per-game incentives and results-based compensation.”
On Thursday, Canada Soccer released details of collective bargaining agreements (CBA) which it said had been first proposed to the men’s and women’s teams last June.
“If accepted by the Player Associations, the collective bargaining agreements will pay both National Teams the same amount for playing a 90-minute match and both National Teams will share equally in competition prize money,” said Canada Soccer on its website.
Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Sophie Schmidt, and Quinn began testifying about Canada’s soccer’s pay equity issues in front of the Parliamentary Heritage Committee also on Thursday.
“We feel quite disrespected by the way they went about their business this afternoon,” said Beckie.
“We believe what was talked about in good-faith bargaining between our players association and [Canada Soccer] should have stayed between the players association and the Canadian soccer association.
“And there were terms and numbers and pieces within their statement today that has not even been communicated to us. So that was a bit of a shock to us.”
Meanwhile, three players on the French squad recently removed themselves from selection, refusing to play for the team’s “current system.”
In an Instagram post last month, France team captain Wendie Renard said she was stepping back to preserve her mental health.
“It’s a sad but necessary day to preserve my sanity. It’s with a heavy heart that I’m sending you this message to inform you of my decision to take a step back from the French team. Unfortunately I won’t be doi