Burnaby’s Christine Sinclair, the greatest soccer player Canada has produced, said the “most painstaking battle” for national team players has been with their own federation.
“As a team, we do not trust Canada Soccer to be open and honest as we continue to negotiate for not only fair and equitable compensation and treatment, but for the future of our program,” Sinclair testified March 9 to the House of Commons Canadian Heritage committee.
Sinclair was joined in Ottawa by teammates Janine Beckie, Quinn, and Sophie Schmidt for the hearing, part of the ongoing, all-party investigation of the governance of federally funded sport organizations.
Sinclair said soccer in Canada is at a crossroads. The men’s team played last fall in a World Cup for the first time in 36 years and is co-hosting the next men’s World Cup in 2026. Meanwhile, the Canadian women’s team is the reigning Olympic champion and is bound for the Women’s World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand.
Yet, the four players noted that Canada has no professional women’s soccer league, they get no royalties from merchandise sales and must go public with their collective bargaining grievances in order to get the CSA’s attention. Players announced a strike last month over program cuts, but relented when the CSA threatened to sue them.
Sinclair said the CSA has long refused to provide full details of its finances and compensation. In 2021, the CSA reported $5.03 million in revenue from player registration fees, $4.7 million from government grants and $18.25 million in commercial and other fees. Yet, it spent $11.03 million on the men’s teams but only $5.09 million on women’s. The CSA does not disclose how much it pays executives or details on its supplier and sponsor contracts.
Players on the women’s national team were shocked to learn in 2021 that players on the men’s team were paid five times more.
“For many years we’ve been forced to negotiate in the dark. Canada Soccer’s approach has reflected a culture of secrecy and obstruction,” Sinclair told the Members of Parliament.
At the end of February, president Nick Bontis resigned after losing confidence of provincial soccer association presidents. West Vancouver’s Charmaine Crooks, a former International Olympic Committee member, was promoted from vice-president to acting president. Sinclair said she welcomes a woman in the top role. However, she said Crooks, a member of the board since 2013, has not communicated directly to the players.
“During her tenure, she has shown nothing to the women’s national team that proves that she’s there fighting for us,” Sinclair said. “In fact, since she’s been elected president, she has not reached out, and, in fact, her first action involving the women’s national team was to release that statement earlier today, which I found to be highly inappropriate in terms of the timing of it and the way that was done.’
That statement came a couple hours before the committee meeting, an apparent pre-emptive move by the CSA to claim it is solving the pay dispute.
CSA claimed that the Canadian women’s team would become the second-highest paid among all of FIFA’s 211 member associations, only behind the U.S. national team.
Players for men’s and women’s senior national teams would be offered $3,500 per-match, plus win bonuses of up to $5,500 per player, depending on the rank of the opposing team. Each team would receive $1.15 million for World Cup qualification and other incentives.
Sinclair also told the committee that she believes former CSA president and current FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani should be called to testify. She also wants the committee to obtain the CSA’s agreement with Canadian Soccer Business, which the committee has already demanded to see. The private company behind the Canadian Premier League and OneSoccer streaming service receives the CSA’s marketing and broadcast royalties and reportedly pays the CSA a fee of $3 million to $4 million a year.
“It shocks me,” said committee chair Hedy Fry (Liberal, Vancouver Centre). “When we heard earlier on with Hockey Canada, and now we’re hearing again, that the places where we send our young children to learn how to be team players, to learn how to have courage and resilience, and to go for it, seems to have so little transparency and accountability. All of them.”
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