Canada men’s soccer team forms players’ association as World Cup fund talks continue

The Canada men’s soccer team has formed a players’ association as negotiations for compensation with Canada Soccer continue.

The players and their governing body are trying to reach an agreement ahead of November’s World Cup in Qatar.

The men follow the Canada women’s team, represented by the Canadian Soccer Players Association (CSPA).

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The news came Thursday in a press release from Canada Soccer, which said they “voluntarily agreed” to recognize the Canadian Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association (CMNSTPA).

Canada Soccer said the association covers players called up to a men’s national team camp since January 2021.

Earl Cochrane, general secretary of Canada’s Soccer, says the players’ association is “now creating a one-stop shop”.

“It streamlines things for us and makes it easier. We can have a regular dialogue. We know where to go for answers and they know where to come (for) questions,” he said in an interview.

“There’s reason to be optimistic based on the fact that they’ve made this move,” he added. “And I think now we’re just continuing what we’ve been doing before and getting to a point where we can find an agreement and get that across the line long before Qatar.”

READ MORE: Canada Soccer makes new compensation offer to men’s and women’s national teams

An attempt to reach the law firm representing the players was not immediately successful.

Canada Soccer is awaiting news of its latest offer, made to both men and women at the end of June. At the time, it said it wanted to even out “matters related to player pool compensation, travel policies and the configuration of high-performance environments” between the two teams.

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Cochrane said the two sides went back and forth, asking and answering questions.

Qatar is only Canada’s second appearance in a men’s World Cup, following the 1986 tournament in Mexico, which saw Canada eliminated after defeats by France, Hungary and the Soviet Union.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s Alphonso Davies donates World Cup proceeds to charity

And with FIFA paying out millions to competing teams, the stakes are high for the current generation of players.

Dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations prompted the men to boycott a planned friendly against Panama in Vancouver in June, citing “unnecessarily long” negotiations for a new contract. The players said they wanted a bigger chunk of World Cup prize money and a “complete friends and family package” for the tournament.

They reportedly demanded an after-tax payment of 40 percent of the expected eight-figure World Cup payout.

The negotiations in June were conducted by the players themselves, according to Canada Soccer. Now that the association is in place, they can apply to legal representation, with provincial labor laws coming into effect.

The stakes are high.

At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, FIFA provided the 32 participating teams with a total of US$791 million, 40 percent more than at the 2014 World Cup.

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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 finisher, to $8 million to each of the eliminated teams in the group stage.

Each qualifying team also received $1.5 million to cover preparation costs, meaning all teams were guaranteed a minimum of $9.5 million for their participation.

Complicating matters is Canada Soccer’s deal with Canada Soccer Business, which handles all corporate partnerships and broadcasting rights related to Canada Soccer’s key assets, including the men’s and women’s national teams and the Canadian Premier League.

While the FIFA prize money is separate from this deal, which was billed as a 10-year deal when it was finalized in 2018, other issues affecting the national teams are included.

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Cochrane said the talks in June were all about sharing FIFA prize money.

“But ultimately, as you work through these discussions, the question is where your revenue is coming from and how players can reap the rewards of their labors on the field,” he said. “And sometimes those conversations end up similar to the CSB conversation.”

Can this deal with Canada Soccer Business be reinstated to allow for an agreement?

“I can’t really comment on it,” Cochrane said. “We’ll see what the negotiations bring while we have them.”

The Canada men, currently ranked No. 43 in the world, have scheduled friendlies against No. 49 Qatar on September 23 and No. 13 Uruguay on September 27, both in Vienna, in the final FIFA international window before heading to Qatar goes.

They are also hoping for a game in Qatar before the opening tournament is played against second-placed Belgium on November 23.

Canada coach John Herdman said he was not directly involved in the player negotiations. But it’s clear he wants to wrap up the issue sooner rather than later.

“It’s an area that I’ve been fortunate to stay away from,” he told The Canadian Press. “The organization (Canada Soccer) was able to position me so that my relationship, the trust I’ve built with the players, wasn’t affected by these kinds of conversations.

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“Hopefully there is progress. We really hope that by the time we reach the September (FIFA) window we can just focus on football. 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’re doing on the field.

“Now there is not a minute to wait. There is no attention we can give other than that our team works in a way that will make an impact at a World Cup.”

After Belgium, Canada will play No. 15 Croatia in Group F on November 27 and No. 22 Morocco on December 1.

© 2022 The Canadian Press Canada men’s soccer team forms players’ association as World Cup fund talks continue


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