The Canadian men’s soccer team, firing another broadside in its bitter labour battle with Canada Soccer, says it is “extremely disappointed” that it will be idle during next month’s FIFA international window.
In a statement released via social media, the men accused Canada Soccer of “squandering a development opportunity only two short months before our 2023 CONCACAF Nations League quarterfinal matches.”
The men say they have made a “highly reasonable proposal” to Canada Soccer, conceding on major issues including compensation for last year’s World Cup in Qatar.
Canada Soccer denied the allegation.
“Canada Soccer has never stated or implied that it will not be participating in the November FIFA window, and any suggestions to the contrary are simply not true,” a Canada Soccer spokesman said Friday.
In an interview last week with The Canadian Press, Canada Soccer’s interim general secretary said the federation had tried to come up with opponents for the September window.
“The challenges that we have with respect to financial constraints are, I think, well documented,” said Jason deVos, a former Canada captain. “We are not sitting in a situation where we’re able to spend significant amounts of money to ensure opponents.
“The reality in the international sphere now is you want play against the top teams, you have to secure their appearances and that typically comes with an appearance fee or covering some of the costs or all of the costs of their travel, their accommodations and what have you.
“We explored every opportunity for September that we possibly could.”
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DeVos said Canada Soccer had a “very good opportunity” in early May to book a friendly in Europe in September.
“Unfortunately we just weren’t in a position to secure that at that moment in time,” said deVos, who was named interim general secretary on April 25. “I still needed to get my feet under the desk and get a better sense of what our financial reality.”
“Unfortunately when we went back a few weeks later to confirm that opportunity it was no longer there for us,” he added.
DeVos said Canada Soccer looked at other September options but “we just weren’t able to get the right balance of the competitive needs that the team has with our financial reality.”
In their statement, the Canadian men once again pointed the finger at Canada Soccer’s deal with Canadian Soccer Business.
“As a team and as a nation, we are seeing the results that financial mismanagement and siphoning the key assets out of Canada Soccer through the [Canadian] Soccer Business deal have had, and continue to have, on Canada Soccer’s financial position.
Canadian Soccer Business essentially markets Canada Soccer’s product, on the field and off, via broadcast and sponsorship agreements. It pays the governing body a set amount each year.
Canada Soccer, which does not hold an ownership stake in CSB, is reportedly receiving $3 million to $4 million a year currently under the deal as “the beneficiary of a rights fee guarantee.” It is attempting to renegotiate the deal.
Canada’s last outing was July 6, a penalty shootout loss to the U.S. in the Gold Cup quarterfinal in Cincinnati.
Other top CONCACAF teams are taking advantage of the September window. The 11th-ranked Americans are hosting No. 73 Oman and No. 74 Uzbekistan while No. 12 Mexico takes on No. 27 Australia and Uzbekistan, with both games also in the U.S.
Important games in November
The Canadian men are gearing up for important games in November.
Canada, along with Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S., has been drawn directly into the quarterfinal stage of the Nations League which will be played in a home-and-away format. The series winners move on to the 2024 Nations League final four and book their ticket to Copa America.
The four quarterfinal losers will meet in play-in games to determine the final two CONCACAF entries for Copa America.
FIFA allows two friendlies in each of the September (4-12), October (9-17) and November (13-21) windows. DeVos said Canada Soccer continues to look at the possibility of a second game in the October window.
The seventh-ranked Canadian women, who formed the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association in 2016, have been without a labour deal since the last one expired at the end of 2021. They have struck an agreement in principle with Canada Soccer on compensation for 2022 and an interim deal for 2023 covering the World Cup but say other issues have yet to be resolved.
The men, who organized last summer as the Canada Men’s National Soccer Team Players Association, are working on their first formal labour agreement.