Maple Leaf representatives returned to the field Monday in Vancouver and practiced even though they had yet to find common ground in Canada Soccer three days before they returned to the Nations League in CONCACAF.
Former color bearer of the Canadian team Amy Walsh, contributor to the TSN network, talks about the labor dispute between the players and the federation. The 44-year-old Montrealer had 102 starts on the national team during the 1998-2009 season.
Q. How do you read the players strike?
A. I think, sadly this did not happen for Panama, who replaced Iran in this friendly match. But in the current situation, I see that players really have no choice […] I will sympathize with the players because I have experienced this: I am always with the group of veterans who are at the negotiating table.
Later in my career, we had the help of a lawyer. But it’s more for official communications; we negotiated. I understand [les joueurs], I have little sympathy for them. I am sure that for them the ideal situation is not to miss the friendly match.
First, it is very important for their preparation for the World Cup. They have two international windows to prepare for: this one in June and another in September, with more or less fifteen to twenty training sessions put together. They missed the two because they were not happy with the feedback they got for their request. They almost seem to be insulted.
They started [les négociations] in March, if I am not mistaken, when they officially qualified [pour le Mondial]. There, it lasts until June. Can we blame the players there? I do not think so. Did they find a solution and play the game? Maybe yes.
I think if they have anything to leave, it’s the friendly match against Panama, which is not part of the CONCACAF Nations League. If they miss Thursday’s game at BC Place against Curaçao because of the strike, that’s different. There will be fines, they will be punished by FIFA and CONCACAF.
I think the players thought they had a chance to do that. You can’t do this the day before the World Cup, before the first match. The time to act, to come together, is now, and they did.
Q. Do you feel that the players are losing confidence in the federation?
A. I believe. Let’s focus on women for a moment because they also went on social media to say that the definition of fair pay is different for them.
For the women, it was three consecutive podiums [aux Jeux olympiques], with the gold medal in Tokyo, but still not a league, still not a real tour of the festival. It was two games against New Zealand in the autumn. It continued somewhat in Vancouver and Victoria [en avril] against Nigeria, but … it’s not much of a celebration. It was a tour, but it lacked celebration, in my opinion.
Is this the support we want from our federation after a team wins gold in the Olympics? I do not think so. Since then, you’ve lost a bit of confidence.
This was coupled with the achievements that the men finally achieved: they won CONCACAF for the first time and qualified for the World Cup after 36 years. It must have been a time to celebrate Canadian soccer, but we were back in time before I even played my first game on the Canadian team in the late 1990s, where the gap between the two programs was really Mark.
There is a real lack of trust in the federation. As the players requested, I think they need a little bit of clarity on what’s going on with the funds. How are they distributed? Will we have transparency on the steps to come at the World Cup in Qatar and the millions of dollars the men will receive?
Q. The agreement with Canada Soccer Business means that the federation will lose control of its broadcasting rights as well as certain marketing, partnership or sponsorship agreements. This is the time when soccer has never been so popular, but the rights have been transferred. As a former player, what does it tell you to see the federation act like this?
A. On their side, to defend them, it was an agreement signed in 2018. Yes, women won bronze [aux Jeux olympiques] in London, in 2012, and in Rio, in 2016, but nothing much happens to men.
It was around this time that John Herdman moved from the Canadian women’s team to the men’s team. For them, maybe they saw it as an important income for the federation. Not for him to survive, but probably nothing much happens to the sponsors, for example.
But to sign in 10 years … In my opinion, you can’t tie yourself to something like that and you have no choice in terms of your broadcasting rights, your partnerships and everything that can bring you money.
Who will be on the teams in 2018? There are all the stars we’ve seen shining this year in the men’s category. Who gave their consent? Not good business. Also, in Canada Soccer Business and agreements Mediapro at OneSoccer, they are not bad, but a lot of money is coming in. Where is it going?
We want the Canadian Premier League to be successful. I think they might be looking for a team for Quebec, maybe another Maritimes and possibly a women’s version, but their business in Canada Soccer Business is a bit naughty. It is independent, but some Canadian Premier League owners are also responsible. For me, there is a conflict of interest.
Each year, we can look at the annual reports. In 2021, talking about two teams, 18% of the funds will be for the women’s group and 39% for the men’s group. But other than that, the incoming income, the sponsorships and all that, I find that for marketing, nothing much is done.
As the players said, this requires more transparency and clarity, this is necessary if we really want to take a step forward and move forward not only soccer on a global scale, but also how we are seen. . The way Canada Soccer does business is very similar to a developing country.
Q. At the Beijing Games in 2008, the negotiations were very, very lengthy. Finally, you are told that that is what it is and that you are not. Is its tactic still the same?
A. I think they had more power than at that time. It made them more professional, more prominent figures and more frequent in the media, not to mention social media. It is from the known world. They also have the support of the general public, it definitely helps them.
To go back to my experience, we probably started our approach earlier. We knew we were turning our backs on the wall, almost impossible on our side. For the federation, to tell us that we will receive nothing for this competition, there is no good will.
Q. How do you think it will work? Is there a game on Thursday?
A. I think so, but maybe I don’t want them to lose another preseason game … I also think that if it lasts longer, the vision coming from outside will be even worse. I would wonder if the match wasn’t played.
Vancouver fans may also not be willing to spend money on tickets. It not only has an immediate effect. Eventually, even if they have a deal, it will probably look bad for years, but I think it’s time to do it. I believe players have no other choice.
I think if they play, there’s an agreement in place. You can’t miss Sunday’s game against Panama, drop it, then negotiate and decide to play Thursday. I never thought you could do that.
On the players ’side, for the top group, it will be difficult on days where they won’t have a lot of mental energy. I hope that Canada Soccer Business and the players who are part of this leadership group will come together and find a solution because they need it to move forward and come up with something to continue to push themselves forward, with the momentum that they got and with the success they have achieved this year.
(With info from Antoine Deshaies)