Disputes between the CanWNT & the CSA

On February 4, news broke of Carolina Morace‘s intentions to resign from her duties with the Canadian Women’s National Team upon the conclusion of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, which takes place from June 26 to July 17.

19 days into the whirlwind situation and there has yet to be a resolution. Over the course of this period, a lot has been published on the topic (headlines conveniently assembled by Jenna Pel) and a number of related debates have taken place on various discussion boards, podcasts, comments sections, and the like. Let’s take a look at what’s known thus far and some of the major talking points.

What’s Frustrating Morace?

In the leaked internal memo sent to media, Morace vaguely revealed that, “The Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) has a strategy to achieve their goals that differs from my strategy”. Further reports later divulged that friction between Morace and the CSA were born out of disagreements over budgetary control.

Morace isn’t seeking budget increases; rather, she wants more autonomy in using available funds when and where she deems appropriate. For instance, “when South Africa withdrew from a second friendly, Morace wasn’t able to schedule another game, or use the money elsewhere, as it was redistributed by the CSA.” CanWNT midfielder Carmelina Moscato told Anna Maria Tremonti of CBC Radio’s “The Current”:

“A lot of the details aren’t disclosed, obviously for contract reasons in terms of respecting her contract. But, as far as we know, it has to do with budget, having a little more control over the money that is available to her, being allowed to, basically, spend at her discretion, and ultimately make decisions that are for the betterment of the team without having the CSA or the organizing body resisting her requests.” [1:48]

What’s Frustrating the Players?

The main issue between the players and the CSA is the sporadic and unpredictable nature of internal payments, a separate but related matter to Morace and the boycott.

Players apparently learned of the strained relationship between coach and association in January while training in China. When the news of Morace’s intentions to prematurely leave the team (she’s originally contracted until the 2012 London Olympics) made headlines, members of the CanWNT threatened to boycott international competition until the association makes a long-term commitment in keeping Morace, i.e. that Morace stays on as the head coach given all that she’s brought to the team.

“Players would end the boycott if the CSA comes to an agreement to keep Morace in the fold, even if the compensation issue is not settled.” “The women don’t have any intention boycotting solely as a result of the compensation issue. The boycott is a reaction to the coaching issue,” Bunting stated.” –Yahoo News Canada

In terms of external funding, eligible players (those earning less than $50,000 a year) receive $18,000 annually, tax free, from Sport Canada, which is distributed monthly in $1,500 instalments. [Moscato, The Current, 4:40]

In terms of funding from the CSA:

“At this time, there’s no compensation structure with the CSA, that’s actually what we’re fighting for, along with a long-term structure. We work in 4 year cycles, and hoping to have some certainty moving forward with what’s coming in…. And per event, there’s a bonus structure and some incentives for making it to quarter-final rounds and so on.” [Moscato, The Current, 5:11]

Being that 2011 is a WWC year, some players have given up money making opportunities by foregoing club play in order to focus on the National Team.

“Typically how it works is, we’re in a competition year, so we’ve actually given up opportunities to play for foreign clubs… We typically make our income through clubs overseas, but this year we’ve given that up to be the best we can for our country.” [Moscato, The Current, 3:02]

Moscato is one player who has given up club opportunities this summer in order to focus on the WWC. She could have earned $2,000 a month playing for a club in Italy.

However, not all players will be foregoing club soccer this summer. In Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), for example, Candace Chapman, Kelly Parker, and Christine Sinclair signed with expansion team Western New York Flash, and Erin McLeod is still rostered with The Washington Freedom rumoured to be leaving magicTalk SC. It’d be interesting to know if their time away club play will affect their salaries, i.e. taking pay cuts.

Returning to the main topic, players receive “minimal” per diem payments from the CSA, and tournament related money is negotiated on an ad-hoc basis, with talks often taking place before the start of a tournament, and sometimes extending into the tournament, a task which is handled by a player’s group.

On negotiating payments for international games:

“They’re based around tournaments. So, for example, in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, the problem is that we’re negotiating right before tournament time, and many times into tournament time. So we’ll be competing, then on our off days, talking to our governing body about what our arrangement is financially, so it’s stressful.” [Moscato, The Current, 5:38]

The team hopes to establish a more predictable payment scheme that includes a predetermined amount. Payments per game and the redistribution of prize money from FIFA tournaments are also part of those discussions. The former is a reaction to the belief that the CanMNT is being “compensated on a per game basis”. Similarly, “the Canadian men’s team has had prize money distributed amongst the players.” At the time of the interview, Bunting said that several requests were made to the CSA for documents, among those outlining the compensation agreement in place for the men’s team, but such information was yet to be provided.

“Right now, there are two things that we’re looking for. The first is, we’ve asked the CSA to tell us what the arrangement is with the men’s team… and we need to see that so we can determine what the appropriate arrangement would be on the women’s side…. The second thing is… an arrangement that’s clear so that the women will know what they’re going to get and when they’re going to get it.” [Bunting, The Current, 6:20]

“That may be right [re: making as much as the men make], but what’s most important, really, is the framework and the structure as to how the women are compensated. So, if the men have an arrangement in place where there is certainty and predictability as to what they’re going to get and when they’re going to get it, then the women should have the same system in place.” [Bunting The Current 10:09]

Who’s Representing the Players?

The team has sought legal counsel on the matter of compensation. Toronto-based lawyer James Bunting of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP (a firm specializing in business law) is lead counsel on the case. His biography indicates that, “he has a broad practice in civil litigation and has been involved in proceedings concerning contractual disputes, insolvency issues, shareholder and oppression remedy actions, defamation, executive employment, antidumping trade matters, estates and trust law, and product liability disputes,” and is, “experienced with sports-related disputes”.

The players got in touch with Bunting through the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. Most importantly, the legal support for the CanWNT is being provided pro bono. Bunting told The Current:

“Well, we thought it was the right thing to do; that’s the simple answer. If you want to break into the details: [we’re] acting for a group of 25 women who have committed their lives to soccer and to the Canadian team, and I think that’s an admirable thing that they’re doing. They’re looking to get just a little bit more money and, to me, it would be the wrong thing for a lawyer to come in and rack up legal fees to take away what they might eventually get. So, for us, it’s the right thing to do here.” [12:09]

What’s Taking so Long?

The CanWNT are frustrated and time is of the essence. The team made a formal proposal to the CSA on a payment plan in 2009, but actions have yet to be taken.

“We’ve engaged in discussions for 10 years. We’ve been in this arrangement in terms of negotiating per event for 10 years now. So what we did as a player group in 2009 is we created a very educated proposal and did our research in terms of what other countries were getting. They’re asking us to medal, so what does that mean? We need the resources; we need the same structures as other countries doing this. So we presented that and it was literally ignored. So, to that extent, it seems as though they haven’t taken us seriously for whatever reason, I don’t know.” [Moscato, The Current, 10:50]

Sinclair, too, has expressed her frustrations in this decade-long process.

Following the 2010 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers, Kara Lang spoke with Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto’s Nigel Reed & Bob Iarusci of The Soccer Show and provided insight into the financial reality of many players, “A lot of us are breaking even playing for this team; some of us are losing money playing for the team” [17:30].

When asked about rewards given to players from the CSA, Lang responded:

“We’ve been trying to work out a plan with the CSA for the next [while]. We would like to set up a 2-year plan so that we can have some sense of security and know what we’re getting into. In the past, talking about any kind of bonuses for winning a tournament has been very stressful because these talks usually lead into the tournament, so we’re discussing things [then]… It’s the last thing [at the beginning of a tournament] that you want to be talking about.” [18:38]

It’s the Same Thing All Over Again

This is not the first compensation dispute between the CanWNT and the CSA.

AWK has uncovered a Master’s thesis entitled “Dreaming of Beijing: Experiencing the Changing Landscape of Elite Women’s Soccer in Canada”, written by former CanWNT and Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ashley McGhee, with in-depth information on past monetary disputes and early funding woes of the CanWNT.

[On a separate note, I highly encourage anyone who’s interested in reading up on the history and development of international women’s soccer, with a focus on the CanWNT and the Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League, to read this thesis. Additionally, the paper also divulges into gender and sport, the effects of Title IX, the 1999 WWC, and features first person narratives from players and staff involved with the National Team program and the Whitecaps.]

We’ve certainly come a long way since the late-1980s, like when players were required to raise money in order to help fund overseas trips for tournaments. In 1987, players took on the responsibility of funding their first overseas trip in the Taiwan Cup, each raising funds of $1,500 to cover the costs. A similar funding pattern existed over the next 10 years (Dreaming of Beijing, pg); the team didn’t have a full-time coach until 1994 (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 39); and external funding from Sport Canada is now also in place (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 40).

On the other hand, similar to the present day, representing your country requires players to take time off from their “day jobs” (how ever they may earn incomes through club teams or typical 9-5ers or part-time jobs, etc.), and sporadic payments from the CSA have tended to be the norm:

“By the time Team Canada departed for Sweden [1995 WWC], players had requested up to three months of unpaid leave from their respective employers. In the end, the CSA came through after the WWC tournament by giving each of the 18 players on the team $1,000 for all their expenses, efforts, and sacrifices. (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 41)

Similarly, as circumstances prior to the 1999 WWC illustrate, legal battles between the women’s team and the CSA over compensation, while citing the CanMNT’s payment scheme, are also a familiar sight.

“Rumors were circulated that players within the Canadian men’s national team program were receiving compensation in the form of appearance fees, amounting to $10,000 annually, a significant amount more than any remuneration players within the Canadian women’s national team program had ever received. In response to these rumors, a few veteran players on Team Canada, including well-established player Charmaine Hooper, created an informal ‘Players Committee’ to enter into discussions with the CSA in an attempt to receive appropriate financial compensation. In justifying the formation of the Players Committee, one player recalled, “We’re coming up to our qualifications, and our World Cup, and we [were not] looking for anything like a pay cheque per game, but we [were] looking for some of the compensation for time missed from work, from school, for all the sacrifices.” (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 42).

Then the situation escalated.

“However, despite this apparent mutual agreement that the women’s national team did in fact need a new contract and expected to be treated “with fairness”, discussions between members of the Players Committee and the Executive Committee of the CSA went back and forth for some time before finally reaching a stalemate. Unable to continue discussions on their own, the Players Committee decided to seek legal council in an attempt to strengthen their negotiations.”

“…Dealing with the disappointment and frustration of not advancing out of their group, Hooper publicly lambasted the CSA’s lack of support for the women’s national team. The CSA responded aggressively and withdrew several veteran athletes from the AAP, stripping them of their carding money, and citing “declining personal performance, contribution to poor team chemistry and advancing age.” (Kucey, 2005) (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 43).

Fast forward to a few years later as the CanWNT prepared for the 2007 WWC and 2008 Beijing Olympics. Despite what some may say about his tactical approach to the game, then coach Even Pellerud ushered in positive changes for the team since he took reign as he “sought to acquire increased funds for more full-time staff and create more youth development teams.” (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 45).

Pellerud and Greg Kerfoot, owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, forged a partnership in their mutual aspirations in developing women’s soccer in Canada. Extra funding from the CSA wasn’t available, so Pellerud turned to an external source.

“Pellerud responded with characteristic bluntness that to win the gold medal at the 2007 FIFA WWC he would need to train the national team on a full-time basis in a long-term residency camp setting in Vancouver. In order to relocate the national team players to Vancouver and offer a new daily training regime, players would have to be financially supported beyond what players were receiving from the Athlete Assistance Program (AAP) through Sport Canada. Pellerud said achieving this would cost $1.5 million over two years. Kerfoot agreed.” (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 60).

“…In addition to annual carding money provided by the AAP (up to $18,000 for a senior card and $10,800 for a development card) players in the Full-Time Player Program receive funding to top their annual salary up to $40,000.” (Dreaming of Beijing, pg 61).

Most players were jubilant over the opportunity to train full-time while earning an income. However, the requirement to relocate in Vancouver didn’t bode well with everyone as three veterans expressed concerns that their Vancouver-based residency program forced players to leave their clubs to join the Whitecaps, a mutually beneficial arrangement that aided personal interests between Pellerud and Kerfoot (You can read the full hearing here).

In order to protest their stance on the situation, forward Christine Latham, defender Sharolta Nonen, and one of the founding members of the CanWNT – former captain, and one-time CanWNT leader in goals (71) and caps (130) – forward Charmaine Hooper refused to attend training camp in Newfoundland for an exhibition series against China. As a result, 2006 saw the dismissal of three veteran players from the team, and despite the suspensions having been later lifted, Latham, Nonen, and Hooper haven’t been back since.

As revealed in 2007 when the case was brought before the Sports Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, serious allegations were made against a number of parties.

“The three plaintiffs — who lost their case in June, 2007 — contended that the CSA was trying to force all of its national-team women to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and that they were threatened to be tossed from the program if they didn’t follow suit. They claimed that the CSA was beholden to Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot.” –The 11

The result: “an arbitrator ruled Pellerud was justified in his actions. Players on the team sided with Pellerud.”

Essentially, the CanWNT and the CSA have dealt with a number monetary disputes over the program’s 24 year history that’s included severed friendships, and potentially damaging allegations and statements being made by and against many parties, but the latter has yet to provide a resolution to the issue, hence, the current situation.

2 thoughts on “Disputes between the CanWNT & the CSA

  1. Charles

    Bonjour
    Excelling summary of the conflict.

    It is good also to remind that there are Canadian laws on the labour (Lois canadiennes sur le travail). And that any association in Canada has to conform to it. Several foreign companies lost in front of the Canadian courts because they did not want respected these canadian labour laws.

    Charles

    Reply
  2. grrljock

    Wow. Awesome coverage of the situation. I was just wondering what ever happened to Charmaine Hooper, and this post answered that question. More comments later after I have more time to closely read this and part 2!

    Reply

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