Atlético Ottawa goalkeeper Dylon Powley speaks out in favour of players' union

Atlético Ottawa goalkeeper Dylon Powley is one of the Canadian Premier League players leading the effort to form a labour union representing professional soccer players in Canada.

Players from multiple Canadian Premier League teams attempting to unionize

Atlético Ottawa goalkeeper Dylon Powley (right) is one of many players in the Canadian Premier League who want to form a labour union to represent their interests. (Robert Reyes Ong)

A unionization drive among professional soccer players in Canada is gaining steam as the Canadian Premier League's (CPL) second season during the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Atlético Ottawa goalkeeper Dylon Powley is one of the players leading the charge. 

"I've played in Sweden before, and even at the lower level that I played at in Sweden, there was still some form of representation for the players," Powley said during an interview on Monday with CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"We're not fighting for anything that's unreasonable." 

The effort to form a labour union has been underway behind the scenes for months. Recently, it burst into the public view as players in the country's highest-level soccer league become more vocal.

Several players risked fines recently when they wore t-shirts on the pitch to show support for the Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFACan).

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ is working with PFACan in an attempt to get it certified as the players' bargaining agent.

"A union for athletes is like any other union for any other group of workers," Champ said on All In A Day

"They need representation on common terms and conditions of employment, common standards."

Last year, CPL players took a 25 per cent wage cut as pandemic restrictions prevented ticket sales and impacted other revenue streams. The league did play a "bubble tournament" in Charlottetown, P.E.I., but no fans were allowed to attend.

The first portion of the 2021 season just wrapped —  all eight teams played eight matches each over a 25 day span at Winnipeg's IG Field. The remainder of the schedule was announced two weeks ago, and it will see teams return to playing games at their home stadiums and travelling for away games. 

Powley said forming a union isn't about increasing salaries or securing perks.

"We're not fighting for bigger wages. We're not fighting for gourmet meals and the bubble," Powley told media outlet Northern Tribune, which covers the CPL closely. 

"We're fighting for the regular season schedule to be released more than a week in advance so people can plan their lives."

LISTEN: Atlético Ottawa goalkeeper Dylon Powley interview on All In A Day

League gives cold shoulder

Champ said some of the other issues CPL players might want to bargain include how many games they're expected to play in a week, rules for drafting new players and health and safety issues like when the temperature's too hot to play. 

So far, though, Champ said the CPL has refused to engage with the unionization effort.

"The Professional Football Association Canada has been representing individual players when they have had issues or contract disputes with the individual club," Champ said. 

"So we have been dealing with [the league] on that level. It's just when we get to the unionization issue, we kind of hit a wall."

CBC requested comment from Atlético Ottawa on the players' unionization drive. The team referred CBC to the league, which declined to comment. 

Atlético Ottawa will play its first home game of the 2021 season at TD Place Stadium on Aug. 14. Tickets are being provided on a "pay what you want" basis. (Alexander Behne/CBC News)

Champ said a union would benefit the league by providing one point of contact for communication between the league and its players and a mechanism to represent players' perspectives.

"Getting through COVID, the pandemic, was a real challenge. And I think it would have been much easier for the league if there had been a union in place," Champ said.

Atlético Ottawa will play its first home game at TD Place Stadium in Lansdowne Park on Aug. 14. Tickets will be given out on a "pay what you want" basis.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFACan) as a division of the U.K.-based Professional Footballers Association. In fact, they are separate entities.
    Jul 27, 2021 3:25 PM ET

With files from Mario Carlucci and All In A Day

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