Canadian Soccer Association opaque on women's pay

While members of the U.S. women's soccer team fight for pay comparable to their male counterparts, it's unclear whether Canadian players are dealing with the same issues.

Organization won't reveal compensation details

The Canadian women's soccer team has performed far better on the pitch than the men's squad, but it's uncertain whether the women are being paid equally. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

While members of the U.S. women's soccer team fight for pay equal to their male counterparts', it remains unclear whether Canadian players are dealing with the same issues.

There is little transparency around how much compensation, if any, members of the women's and men's national soccer teams receive for competing for their country.

The Canadian Soccer Association told the Globe and Mail last week that "there is not a disparity" in pay between the men's and women's national teams, but has refused to provide details.

The CSA pays the salaries of its players who compete in the professional National Women's Soccer League, where players are reportedly paid between $7,200 and $39,700 US per season by the league if they are not allocated by the Canadian or U.S. federation.

The CSA told CBC Sports that the salaries it pays also cover players' appearances for the women's national team.

Meanwhile, members of the Canadian men's national team are paid per appearance, the CSA said, "due to the very different leagues available for male and female players." In other words, there isn't as strong a need to subsidize male players with a salary from the CSA because there are many more opportunities for them to land jobs with professional teams.

The CSA declined to disclose either its salary range for the female players or the per-match figure paid to the men. It's even unclear whether different players receive different compensation rates.

The CSA said it "does pay performance bonuses to players as part of the player compensation agreement and as such this is confidential player information."

U.S. men 'paid more just to show up'

Last week, in a filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, five of the biggest names in U.S. women's soccer, including Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Hope Solo, said they are getting a raw deal compared to players on the less-successful U.S. men's national team.

"The numbers speak for themselves," Solo said. "We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [U.S. men's national team] get paid more just to show up than we get paid to win major championships." 

The complaint alleges U.S. Soccer pays players on the women's team a salary of $72,000, along with bonuses, to play in a minimum of 20 matches per year. That's far less than the men receive, and unlike the men, they are awarded bonuses only if they win those matches.

The complaint also says that the women are paid $30,000 each for making the World Cup team, while the men are paid $68,750. 

Coach Herdman defends support system

The soccer narrative in Canada is similar to that in the States. The Canadian women's team has enjoyed considerably more success than the men's — including an Olympic bronze in 2012 and six consecutive World Cup appearances — and features stars like No. 2 all-time goal scorer Christine Sinclair. The men's team hasn't appeared in a World Cup in 30 years, and often seems destined to wander in the international soccer wilderness.

Canadian women's team coach John Herdman defended the support structure for his players during an interview last week with the CBC.

"I think that's the great part of the commitment Canada Soccer [the CSA] has put in place, and not only Canada Soccer but Own The Podium and all the supporting agencies that support athletes here in Canada. I think our athletes are supported well. Look, everyone would like more, no matter who comes to work.

"We put $150 million into women's football over a four-year period to bring the [2015 Women's World Cup] here and get the team ready. So there's a lot going into women's development here in Canada."

The idea of compensating athletes to represent their countries does not apply to all sports. For example, neither Canada Basketball nor its American counterpart USA Basketball pay players to compete or give bonuses for winning games.

"We don't pay our players to participate or win," Canada Basketball CEO Michele O'Keefe told CBC Sports. "They do it because they want to. To be honest, most say playing for us in the summer gives them a better chance to get a good [pro] contract in winter."​


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