Liberal MP wants to expedite having Canada Soccer before parliamentary committee

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It appears Canada Soccer may soon join Hockey Canada in coming under the scrutiny of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather says the parliamentary committee has already requested the minutes of Canada Soccer’s board and wants to question the governing body in a future meeting. And while Canada Soccer was one of several governing bodies the committee had already planned to examine, Housefather says it should be moved “to the top of the list” given the ongoing labour impasse with the men’s and women’s national soccer teams.

The Canadian women briefly went on strike over the weekend before being forced back onto the pitch by their governing body.

“I will be discussing with my colleagues expediting having Canada Soccer present to us,” Housefather told The Canadian Press on Monday. “And I will also be proposing that the women’s team be invited to come speak to the committee as well.”

While Housefather, who represents the Quebec riding of Mount Royal, said while he does not want to prejudge the situation, “it would be good for Canadians to have us help get to the bottom of it.”

The Canadian women boycotted practice Saturday in Orlando and said they would not take part in the SheBelieves Cup until their grievances were addressed. But they reluctantly returned to training Sunday after Canada Soccer threatened them with legal action if they did not end their job action.

Canada Soccer said the players “were not and are not in a legal strike position under Ontario labour law.” The women said they would play the SheBelieves Cup under protest.

The four-country tournament kicks off Thursday with the Olympic champion Canadians, ranked sixth in the world, taking on the top-ranked Americans.

The Canadian women are demanding the same backing in preparing for this summer’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand that the men received last year before Qatar. And they want Canada Soccer to open its books.

In 2021, Canada Soccer spent $11 million on the men’s team and $5.1 million on the women. Team captain Christine Sinclair notes some $2.5 million of the women’s funding came from Own The Podium. That contribution means the federal government is watching.

Canadian Heritage deputy minister Isabelle Mondou was asked Monday during a standing committee hearing on the Status of Women about how national sport organizations fund their men’s and women’s team, with soccer used as an example.

“Sport Canada funds female teams and if the money isn’t going to these teams, the minister will have to verify this because that is unacceptable,” Mondou said.

“Women’s sports should be funded to the same extent.”

Canada Soccer has repeatedly said that pay equity will be a pillar of the new labour deal.

Both the men’s and women’s soccer teams want more transparency when it comes to Canada Soccer’s books, including its controversial agreement with Canada Soccer Business, which represents all corporate partnerships and broadcast rights related to Canada Soccer’s core assets including its national teams.

Under the deal, Canada Soccer Business pays Canada Soccer a set amount each year. It keeps the rest under an agreement that helps fund the Canadian Premier League.

Canada Soccer saw the agreement — announced in March 2018 — as short-term pain for long-term gain. But it soon found its hands tied in terms of reaping the financial awards of the women winning Olympic gold and the men becoming the toast of CONCACAF in returning to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.

“How Canada Soccer is allocating or using funds is unclear and cloaked in secrecy,” the men’s team said in a statement Friday.

In a statement Monday evening, Canada Soccer Business said it has offered to increase its payments to Canada Soccer.

“While CSB has never been a party to labour negotiations between Canada Soccer and its women’s and men’s national team players’ associations, several times over the past year, and as recently as last month, we have proactively communicated to Canada Soccer leadership that we are willing to provide incremental resources to Canada Soccer to help further its mission,” it said.

“A central element of this outreach is ensuring any incremental funding provided by CSB is directed toward programming that can make a meaningful impact now and in future, such as a fitting sendoff series for the Canadian women’s national team on Canadian soil ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, additional training resources, and continued commitment to improving youth programming. Those discussions are ongoing.”

 “The women’s national team deserves the resources it needs to be successful in the lead up to the Women’s World Cup and beyond. We are ready, willing, and able to partner with all stakeholders to play our part to make that happen.”

CSB, which said it has invested close to $100 million dollars in the development of soccer, did not specify what the incremental resources would be.

Housefather wants to shed light on the Canada Soccer Business deal.

“As you saw with Hockey Canada, having access to documents allows you to ask very pointed questions,” he said. “But the main thing here is there’s been a desire from the women’s and the men’s national teams, at the very least, and I think many others across the community to have greater transparency in Canada Soccer. And there’s been questions about governance.

“These are the issues that our committee explored with Hockey Canada and these are the issues I think we will explore with Canada Soccer.”

Also Monday, Canada Soccer named its final roster for the SheBelieves Cup with Sabrina D’Angelo, Kadeisha Buchanan, Jessie Fleming, Julia Grosso, Cloe Lacasse, Ashley Lawrence, Adriana Leon and Shelina Zadorsky late additions after arriving from their teams in Europe with the FIFA international window now open.

Amanda Allen, Victoria Pickett and Bianca St-Georges, who took part in the pre-tournament camp, did not make the final roster.

“Every camp we have, it becomes more and more difficult to select a roster, which speaks to the quality in the squad,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said in a statement. “With some core players still out with long-term injuries, it provides us with a great opportunity to explore more talent against top World Cup opposition.”

Veteran midfielder Desiree Scott and forwards Deanne Rose and Nichelle Prince are unavailable through injury.

Priestman has kept defender Sydney Collins to train with the team. A former Cal Bears captain, Collins was taken eighth overall by the North Carolina Courage in the 2023 NWSL draft.

The Oregon-born Collins has both Canadian and U.S. citizenship and earned a call-up to the U.S. under-23 team last year. Father Brett played three seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams while mother Susan played volleyball in Canada.

After the U.S., the Canadians face No. 8 Brazil on Sunday in Nashville and No. 11 Japan on Feb. 22 in Frisco, Texas.

It marks Canada’s second trip to the tournament. The first was in February 2021 in Priestman’s debut as coach. The Canadians lost 1-0 to the U.S., beat Argentina 1-0 and lost 2-0 to Brazil.

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