Canadian companies throw support behind women's pro sports, national soccer team
Canadian Tire adds 5 partnerships while GE Appliances offers $100K to national squad
Canadian Tire Corp. has announced a new commitment to improve gender equity in sports, saying at least half the money it spends sponsoring professional sports will go toward women by 2026.
The retailer says its new multi-million dollar Women's Sport Initiative will support the expansion of women's professional sports leagues and programs in Canada.
The company says it has added five new sports partnerships to its roster and will boost its existing support for organizations that drive inclusion and diversity in sport.
The parent company of stores like Canadian Tire, SportChek and Pro Hockey Life says it has also created a dedicated media fund to increase the visibility of women's sport.
Susan O'Brien, Canadian Tire's chief brand and customer officer, says the program will help pave the way for more equitable opportunities in women's professional sport and inspire a new generation of female athletes.
"Canadian Tire Corp. is proud of our longstanding commitment to gender equity and inclusion in sport from the playground to the podium and now to the professional arena with the introduction of our Women's Sport Initiative," she said in a statement.
Last fall, Canadian Tire ended its partnership with Hockey Canada in response to the sporting organization's handling of alleged sexual assaults.
Canadian Tire said at the time it would redirect its support to organizations that better align with the company's values.
'Pivotal moment for soccer in Canada'
Other companies are offering support to female athletes ahead of International Women's Day on Wednesday.
In a letter Monday to interim Canada Soccer president Charmaine Crooks, GE Appliances Canada announced it would direct $100,000 in incremental sponsorship activation funding to support the women's national team program.
"This is a pivotal moment for soccer in Canada. The sport has never been more popular," Bob Park, chief brand officer for GE Appliances Canada, wrote to Crooks. "Our players and our teams have never seen more success. And the opportunity to grow the beautiful game in Canada has never been greater."
Park shared his concern for the ongoing labour dispute between Canada Soccer and the women's national team, noting he was heartened by last week's interim funding agreement.
"I think this dispute between Canada Soccer and the women's national team had gone on for a fair amount of time," Park told The Canadian Press. "We really wanted to get involved, really to be a positive force in soccer.
"We're really in soccer for one big reason, and we want to be known as a true corporate supporter of the game in Canada. In order to do that, we want to align with a partner, in this case Canada Soccer, and we expect that our brand values are shared and they exhibit those values in their actions.
"Of late, that's been a little bit more of a challenge, so we wanted to offer up some solutions."
The women's team say there is still "a lot of work to be done" to achieve labour peace.
Canada Soccer said the funding agreement mirrors the interim deal with the men's team for appearance fees and results-based bonuses. The governing body called it "a bridge deal to get us to a collectively bargained agreement."
The women say while they have told Canada Soccer they will play in the April FIFA window, their participation is contingent on "meaningful progress being made with respect to a number of bargaining issues."
Park, who said he spoke with Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane regarding the financial offer and it being directed to the women's team, hopes other sponsors could join in to help.
"[It's] really to encourage other sponsors or potential sponsors or current sponsors to come forward and pitch in as well."
With files from CBC Sports
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