Members of the Olympic champion Canadian women’s soccer team told a committee of MPs Thursday that the lack of investment and support from Canada soccer women Association has been a “huge disadvantage” throughout their careers.
The members, including captain Christine Sinclair, goalkeeper Erin McLeod, defender Kadeisha Buchanan and midfielder Sophie Schmidt, said they were proud to represent Canada on the world stage but felt neglected by their governing body.
“There is no greater honour as an athlete than to step on the competitive stage and represent our country,” Sinclair said. “Yet, we’ve had to do so with fewer resources, inadequate support staff and less financial compensation than many of the other countries that we compete against.”
The players gave a scathing review of Canada Soccer, saying the organization paid male players five times more in bonuses for making the World Cup than female players received. They said they also received less money overall, and had to pay out of pocket for equipment and training.
“It’s not a fair playing field,” McLeod said. “We’re competing against countries that are investing millions of dollars into their women’s programs”. Members of the women’s team say they want the same support and backing from Canada Soccer that the men’s team receives.
“We would like for the Canadian Soccer Association to invest into our program. Our sport is growing, but it needs a major investment,” Sinclair said. “We need to see a commitment from them.”
Sinclair told the committee she brought the team’s concerns to former Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani, who responded “that’s a good problem to have,” referring to the team’s recent success on the international stage.
“It’s not a ‘good’ problem to have — it’s an obvious one,” Sinclair said.
Conservative MP and committee member Kevin Waugh said the committee hoped to see some change in the way Canadian Soccer handles its women’s soccer program.
“The government is prepared to lead the way with this,” Waugh said, “but we need more commitment from Canada Soccer.” The members of the women’s team are hopeful that with increased investment and support from Canada Soccer.
The players also said that the issues with Canada Soccer go beyond just limiting their resources, and that the organization needs to make more of an effort to promote girls’ soccer in Canada.
“We need to get more young girls playing,” Sinclair said. “It’s all about getting them involved at a younger age and making sure they have equal opportunities.”
But Canada Soccer acknowledges that equal pay does not mean equal opportunity, and they are committed to creating a more equitable environment for female athletes.
“We understand that women’s soccer requires additional investment, and we are working on it,” said Canada Soccer President Steven Reed. “Our goal is to create an environment where our players can compete at the highest level.”
“We don’t feel it’s the right place to stoop down to the level of our competitors,” McLeod said. “Our goal is to be bigger and better than any other team in the world.”
The Canadian women’s soccer team has received widespread support from Canadians, with each member becoming a household name after winning the Olympic title in 2016. But they hope that their story will serve as an example and an opportunity for other young female athletes to have the same success.
“We want to be a beacon of hope, not just for girls in Canada but globally,” Sinclair said. “It’s time that our voices are heard.”