Canadian women's national soccer team players taking a stand for equal pay
Players on the Canadian women’s national team have a very clear message when it comes to their negotiations with Canada Soccer.
“We want equal pay, and we're not willing to settle for anything less,” Janine Beckie told TSN on Wednesday.
The Canadian women have been negotiating with Canada Soccer on a new compensation agreement since their previous one expired at the end of 2021. In a statement released Sunday, the team clarified that they are seeking equal dollars to the men’s team, not equal percentages.
Beckie, a forward on the national team, is also a player representative for the Canadian Soccer Players Association, a group that protects the rights and interests of the women’s national team.
“We see it as equal pay for equal work,” she said.
As an example, the prize money for the men’s World Cup this year is $440 million, while the amount is $60 million for next year’s women’s tournament.
“So, if the CSA were to say we'll give you equal percentages of your respective FIFA prize money, there's a massive disparity in those amounts between the men's team and the women's team,” Beckie said.
The Canadian women are seeking something similar to what the U.S. women’s and men’s teams were recently able to achieve with their federation in an agreement reached last month.
That deal will see the two teams paid equally for game appearances and tournament victories. The two sides will also pool their World Cup prize money and split the funds, after the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) takes its cut.
Beckie acknowledges that there are key differences between the two federations, with the USSF being a much larger organization, but she still views the American deal as the benchmark.
“Our core message is that gender inequity needs to come to an end globally,” she said. “But obviously we only have control to do that in our association right now.”
At a media conference on Sunday, Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis said, "On the issue of gender equity... Canada Soccer's offer [to the men’s team] also committed to provide the exact same terms to our women's national team."
Beckie and her teammates have been closely watching everything that has recently transpired with the men’s national team, which is at odds with Canada Soccer over issues concerning compensation.
“We want to work with the men's team. That's always been our goal,” Beckie said. “It's unclear where they stand completely on that at the minute. I know they're working hard behind the scenes to get things organized from their perspective to move forward from where they've been in the last couple of days.”
The men’s national team released a statement on Sunday after refusing to play their friendly against Panama. In the letter, the team referenced its desire for an equitable structure with the women’s team, along with the development of a women’s domestic league, but specifically referenced “percentage of prize money,” forcing the women’s team to issue its own statement to clarify its position.
Beckie said no one on the men’s team spoke to anyone on the women’s team before releasing the statement, but the two sides have had conversations since.
“They have apologized for using our team in their statement without asking. So, we massively respect that,” she said.
According to Beckie, there have been conversations in the past about the two teams working with one another in negotiations, but it only truly became an option this year when Canada Soccer offered both sides a joint agreement.
“We have a great relationship with [the men’s team]. We have a great working relationship with the CSA. Right now, the conversations are positive and what they've put on the table, we're willing to work from there, kind of as the floor,” she said. “But we want to show the world the powerhouse that Canada soccer can be.”
While Beckie and her teammates are pleased with the direction their negotiations are heading, she admits that they’re likely not close to an official deal with Canada Soccer yet.
“It's been really positive, from our perspective. They've listened very well to what we've asked,” she said. “We still have a lot of questions that we want to ask. And I don't think, in the grand scheme of things, we're super, super close to coming to any kind of signed agreement yet.”
Like the men’s team, many of those questions surround what the players feel is a lack of transparency from Canada Soccer, especially when it comes to the federation’s long-term contract with Canadian Soccer Business that was signed in 2018.
“It's concerning to me as a player, and to us as a team, that we don't have clarity on this deal when it comes to money coming into the association from one of the biggest revenue areas of a sports team, which is sponsorship and broadcast, as I understand it,” Beckie said.
“It's difficult to negotiate a financial deal when you don't have all of the information. So, I think, naturally, we've been asking for some of that information, and they have been forthcoming with some things, and we're still pushing to get information about other things.”
Beckie said the best-case scenario would be to have a deal in place before the team embarks on the CONCACAF W Championship next month. The tournament, which begins on July 4 in Monterrey, Mexico, serves as qualifiers for next year’s World Cup as well as the 2024 Olympics.
“You never want to, as a player, go into a tournament like that with questions still on the table and things to still be decided. And I know for myself and my fellow player reps, it's been a lot of stress, it's been a lot of time, a lot of conversations, a lot of jumping on phone calls, exchanging messages and emails,” she said.
But despite a deadline in mind, Beckie said she and her teammates are willing to fight for as long as needed.
“We obviously are very much committed to getting what we deserve and what we want from this,” she said.
The Canadian women’s team has taken a stand on several societal issues before, including support of Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community. Beckie sees this as another opportunity to make an impact.
“If we sign an equal pay deal – when we sign an equal pay deal, I should say – we can then start to influence things like FIFA and the disparity of FIFA money and hope that we can influence the increase in World Cup prize money of the Women's World Cup,” she said. “We can make the sport better for everybody, for the next generations to come.”