The Canadian men’s soccer team has formed a players’ association as compensation negotiations continue with Canada Soccer.
The players and their governing body are trying to strike a deal ahead of November’s World Cup in Qatar.
The men follow the example of the Canadian women’s team, which is represented by the Canadian Soccer Players Association (CSPA).
The news came in a statement from Canada Soccer on Thursday, which said it had “agreed to voluntarily recognize” the Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association (CMNSTPA).
Earl Cochrane, general secretary of Canada’s Soccer, says the players’ association is now “creating a single point of contact”.
“It just simplifies things for us and makes it easier. We can have regular dialogue. We know where to go for answers and they know where to come. [for] questions,” he said in an interview.
“There are reasons for optimism, based on the fact that they have reached this milestone,” he added. “And I think now it’s just a matter of continuing what we were doing before, getting to a point where we find an agreement and that goes way ahead of Qatar.”
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An attempt to contact the law firm representing the players was not immediately successful.
Canada Soccer is awaiting news of its latest offer, made to men and women at the end of June. At the time, he said he was looking “to even out issues related to player pool compensation, travel policy and setting up high-performance environments” between the two teams.
Cochrane said the two sides went back and forth, asking and answering questions.
Qatar marks only Canada’s second trip to the men’s World Cup, following the 1986 tournament in Mexico where Canada was eliminated after losses to France, Hungary and the Soviet Union.
And with FIFA paying out millions to competing teams, there’s a lot at stake for the current crop of players.
The men boycotted a friendly match in June
Dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations prompted the men to boycott a scheduled June friendly against Panama in Vancouver, citing “unnecessarily protracted” negotiations over a new contract. The players said they wanted a bigger share of the World Cup prize money and a “complete friends and family package” for the tournament.
They are said to have asked for an after-tax payment equivalent to 40% of the expected eight-figure World Cup payout.
The June negotiations were handled by the players themselves, according to Canada Soccer. Now that the association is in place, they can turn to legal representation with the coming into force of provincial labor laws.
There is a lot at stake.
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During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA provided a total of US$791 million to the 32 participating teams, up 40% from the 2014 tournament.
Of that, $400 million was paid out in prize money, ranging from $38 million to the winner, $28 million to the runner-up, and $24 million to the third-place team to $8 million to each. teams eliminated in the group stage.
Each qualifying team also received $1.5 million to cover preparation costs, meaning all teams were guaranteed at least $9.5 million each for their participation.
To complicate matters, Canada Soccer’s agreement with Canada Soccer Business, which is responsible for all corporate partnerships and broadcast rights related to Canada Soccer’s core assets, including its men’s and women’s national teams as well as the Canadian Premier League.
Although the FIFA prize money is separate from this deal, which was billed as a 10-year deal when it was struck in 2018, other national team issues are included.
Cochrane said the June talks were all about the FIFA prize pool.
“But as these discussions go on, what is ultimately asked is where your income is coming from and how can the players reap the rewards of what they do on the pitch,” he said. “And sometimes those conversations come out the same way as the CSB.”
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The Canadians, currently ranked 43rd in the world, have friendlies scheduled against 49th-ranked Qatar on September 23 and 13th-ranked Uruguay on September 27, both in Vienna, in the final FIFA international window before heading to go to Qatar.
They also hope to play a game in Qatar before opening the tournament on November 23 against second-placed Belgium.
Canadian coach John Herdman says he was not directly involved in negotiations with the players. But it is clear that he wants the problem solved as soon as possible.
“It is an area that I have fortunately [been] able to stay away,” he told The Canadian Press. “The organization [Canada Soccer] knew how to position myself so that my relationship, the trust that I have built with the players, is not impacted by this type of conversation.
“I hope there is progress. We really hope we can just focus on football when we reach September. [FIFA] the window. And I will have this conversation with my players. It’s just such a critical window now to put all of our energy into our team connection and ultimately what we do on the pitch.
“There’s not a minute to wait now. There’s not a single attention we can give apart from operating our team in the way that will impact at a World Cup.”
After Belgium, Canada will face Croatia (15th) on November 27 and Morocco (22nd) on December 1 in Group F.