Players from Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning women’s football team have returned to training despite their dispute over cuts to the national programme after they were threatened with legal action by governing body Canada Soccer.
The players had expressed their “outrage” over inadequate funding for the women’s national team and youth teams in the build-up to this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, claiming that Canada Soccer had cut training camp days and full camp windows in a statement released through the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association (CPSA).
They also alleged that they had been told “Canada Soccer cannot adequately fund the women’s national team, and they have waited to tell us this until now”.
The players’ participation in the invitational SheBelieves Cup in the United States had been in doubt, but they have called off strike action after missing one day of training in Florida, with captain Christine Sinclair insisting they had been “forced back to work”.
The women’s national team said representatives of the CPSA had met with Canada Soccer yesterday, but players had been told beforehand that their action was deemed “an unlawful strike”.
“They told us that if we did not return to work – and did not commit today to playing in Thursday’s game against the United States – they would not only take legal action to force us back to the pitch, but would consider taking steps to collect what could be millions of dollars in damages from our Players’ Association and from each of the individual players currently in camp,” they claimed.
“As individual players who have received no compensation yet for any of our work for Canada Soccer in 2022, we cannot afford the risks that personal action against us by Canada Soccer will create.
“Because of this, we have advised Canada Soccer that we will return to training and will play in the SheBelieves Cup as scheduled.”
They added that they continued to believe cuts were “unacceptable” and “Canada Soccer needs to do more”.
Canada Soccer claimed that the players’ action was not lawful under Ontario labour regulations, and said it was “heartened” that the team would compete with Brazil, Japan and world champions the US in the SheBelieves Cup.
“Canada Soccer respects the players’ right to organise,” the governing body said.
“The players, while having taken job action, were not and are not in a legal strike position under Ontario labour law.
“Canada Soccer was not prepared to jeopardise the SheBelieves Cup tournament, the preparation it would afford the women’s national team for the upcoming FIFA World Cup, nor the experience it would afford countless fans who had undoubtedly travelled to Orlando to see their national team heroes.
“Canada Soccer therefore took the necessary steps to ensure that such games will be played as scheduled.”
It added that it has “committed to negotiating a comprehensive collective agreement with both of the player associations of the women’s and men’s national teams” to deliver “pay equity”, and has “committed to a path to addressing each of the demands made by the players”.
Canada’s men’s national team boycotted a friendly against Panama in June last year because of a dispute in which they sought an “equitable structure with our women’s national team”.
The country’s women’s team won Olympic gold for the first time with victory against Sweden in the final at Tokyo 2020, and have qualified their eighth consecutive World Cup in Australia and New Zealand later this year.
Canada is a co-host for the 2026 Men’s World Cup with the US and Mexico.