If the Canadian Soccer Association has its way, Carolina Morace will still be coach of the Canadian women's team after the 2011 FIFA World Cup.
To that end the CSA, soccer's governing body in Canada, has reached out to Morace and is trying to set up a face-to-face meeting with the Italian-born manager in order to listen to her concerns and try to convince her to reconsider her resignation.
Morace, 47, recently told the CSA that she planned to quit following the World Cup, which runs from June 26 to July 17 in Germany. Morace was hired in February 2009 and her contract runs through the 2012 Olympics.
The Canadian team has thrived under Morace, qualifying for this summer's World Cup and re-establishing itself as one of the best sides in the women's game. But Morace was clearly unhappy, citing differences with the CSA over the long-term strategy of the women's program in her resignation letter.
CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli said the organization is eager to speak to the coach in person, and is trying to set up a meeting even if it means going to Italy, where Morace and the women's team will start training later this week.
"From [our] perspective, what we need to do is learn a little more about her concerns," Montopoli told CBCSports.ca on Wednesday. "We want to sit down with her and iron out the situation and what the difficulties may be so that we can put the program back to where it needs in order for it to be successful."
Stay on after World Cup
Montopoli, who claimed he was unaware of what specific issues Morace has, said the CSA's goal is to try to convince the Italian to remain as coach after the World Cup.
"That's our intent. That's really the spirit of why we wish to engage in talks with her … Absolutely, that's what we're looking to do," Montopli stated.
Morace was cryptic in her explanation for quitting, but some players have suggested the CSA has stifled her and interfered with how she has run the women's program.
If that's the way Morace really feels, Montopli wants to address that.
"Certainly, we want to ensure she has the opportunity to [run] the program in accordance with what she needs," he said. "Whatever [training] camps she requires and whatever preparation has to be accordance to her needs, so we have to make sure of that."
The coach's future is complicated by the fact that members of the Canadian women's team voted unanimously to go on strike in support of Morace earlier this week. Captain Christine Sinclair and her teammates have vowed not to play an international game until the issue with Morace has been resolved.
The Canadian team is supposed fly to Rome on Friday for a training camp ahead of the Cyprus Cup, an exhibition tournament it is scheduled to compete in that starts on Feb. 28.
Montopli did not want to address the boycott, reiterating that the CSA is doing all it can to engage in talks with Morace.
At the same time as the Morace issue has unfolded, the CSA has been dealing with growing unrest amongst the women players over their financial compensation.
The 25 members of the women's team have retained legal counsel over a pay dispute with the CSA and are prepared to file a suit for arbitration with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada.
The women contend that the Canadian men's team has a fixed-term arrangement with the CSA under which they are compensated on a per game basis. They women say they want a similar deal, instead of receiving what they call ad-hoc compensation from the CSA.
Members of the women's team receive approximately $1,500 a month from Sport Canada. Currently, the players also negotiate compensation with the CSA for each tournament they participate in.
Jim Bunting, lead counsel for the women, previously told CBCSports.ca that, "what the women are looking for is an arrangement that is fixed in term and provides them with predictability as to what their compensation will be."
Montopoli confirmed that the CSA has tabled an offer, but declined to provide any details.
The women are seeking a long-term contract, but a potential sticking point in the negotiations could be how to calculate the compensation they should receive.
Bunting has made several requests of the CSA, asking for documentation of the compensation agreement the organization has with the men's team. He wants that information so he can consider any compensation offer put forth for the women, but thus far the CSA has not provided him with the documents.
"We fully understand the concept of multiple years," Montopoli said. "It's the mechanism on how to do that — I think that's what we're working through with their lawyers … in terms of what [the compensation formula] should be."
Multi-year compensation proposal
In a Jan. 13 letter to the CSA, Bunting wrote that the women's team tabled a multi-year compensation proposal to Montopoli in February 2009. The letter went on to paint Montopoli and the CSA as dragging their feet and not responding in a timely fashion.
Montopoli said it's not as easy as signing a cheque and giving it to the players, and that certain organizational procedures must be followed.
"It's hard to say, as part of the negotiations, what's the right speed, and what's the wrong speed," Montopli said. "I understand what they are saying [but] there are certain avenues and procedures with which that we have to work in terms of how things are done."
The timing of both disputes isn't ideal. Canada is competing against Zimbabwe for the right to host the 2015 Women's World Cup and is set to present its bid book to FIFA next week. But Montopli doesn't think the disputes would adversely affect Canada's chances.
"Having worked on the bid all this time, the bid does stand on its own with FUIFA, there's no doubt about that. From a bid perspective, that's fine," Montopli asserted.
He's also hopeful both the coaching and compensation issues can be quickly and amicably resolved.
"I am optimistic that we'll get there and everybody will be happy and supportive of the resolutions that we'll get to in time with the players," Montopli said.