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HomeSportsSoccerWoeful funding for women's soccer around the world is a disgrace

Woeful funding for women’s soccer around the world is a disgrace


This is a column by Shireen Ahmed, who writes opinion for CBC Sports. For more information about CBC’s Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

The popularity of women’s soccer is on the rise. It continues to break records on a global scale, whether it is more than one million tickets sold for next month’s Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, or the amount of fans in stadiums across the U.S.A and Europe watching league finals. There is also an increase of pay by FIFA for women footballers and a commitment to equalizing prize money for men and women in the next few years.

This is important because FIFPRO, an organization which advocates for players around the world, came out with a report that showed of 362 women players surveyed, 29 per cent were not paid for World Cup qualification matches, 54 per cent did not get a pre-tournament medical exam and, perhaps most alarming, 66 per cent had to take leave (many unpaid) from their jobs. The path to Women’s World Cup glory needs to be leveled. 

Last week, news broke that the Canadian women’s team wanted an agreement with Canada Soccer for proper remuneration before departing Australia this week ahead of the Women’s World Cup. As of June 28, there has been no announcement of a deal.

Jason deVos, secretary general of Canada Soccer, told TSN this week the organization might have to explore bankruptcy, before backtracking on this comments with CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux, saying he was merely educating himself on the process and it was “not a strategy.”

DeVos is a former national team player, helped coach the women’s team at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and started his new position in May. I spoke with him a few weeks ago and he was hopeful about rebuilding relationships with the national teams. But these recent details about the finances seem dire. And money is a large part of re-establishing trust with the women’s team. 

It’s hard to see our national soccer federation in this situation, particularly a few weeks from the start of the most important tournament in women’s soccer. Canada will be competing in Group B, the so-called “Group of Death” with Nigeria, Ireland and host Australia, of which only two will advance to the knockout rounds.

Kate McCabe, a top player with Arsenal women’s team and captain of Ireland, said recently that she believes Canada is going to be very difficult to beat in their Group B. 

WATCH | Can Canada make it out of the ‘Group of Death?’:

Can Canada make it out of the group of death in the Women’s World Cup? | Soccer North

Host Andi Petrillo and CBC’s Shireen Ahmed play a game called ‘Something, Nothing, and Everything’ and discuss Canada’s young emerging talent who could play a huge role in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Canada, however, is not alone among women’s national teams struggling with financial issues. 

Jamaica’s team, known as the Reggae Girlz, will also be in Australia, and one of their players is Tiffany Cameron, from Mississauga, Ont. She grew up playing with Canada’s youth national programs but in 2019 made the move to Jamaica’s team and played in that year’s Women’s World Cup in France. She will play again for Jamaica at this year’s tournament.

Cameron told me that the team started a GoFundMe page to help cover costs in Australia. The page has raised more than $28,000 out of a goal of $100,000. 

Players should not have to worry about raising money for camp and logistics. Cameron’s job, like her teammates, is to be focused on the World Cup. This isn’t a bake sale to raise money for new uniforms. Sadly, though, it is a necessary step the players have had to take.

On June 15, the team posted a joint statement to their social media about their frustrations and disappointment with Jamaica Football Federation, and that they continue to compete in events without compensation.

In it, the players described how they have been impacted by “subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition, and accessibility to proper resources.”

The players on the Reggae Girlz play in the NWSL, the NCAA , and professional leagues in Europe. Keeping a team cohesive can be challenging, but Cameron said they have a strong leadership team who make sure the younger players and the veteran players remain connected to each other.

“Whenever you hear anything out in the media, it’s not like we haven’t thought things through,” Cameron said. “We’re just hoping for change.” 

She said their biggest strength as a team is that they are united.

“We’re continuing to make history,” Cameron said. “That is our motivation. It doesn’t matter what obstacles come in our way, we will find a way to stay united … and give our best on the field.”

Being honoured to represent your country is something we hear constantly from Team Canada players. And although they are reigning Olympic champions, just last week they made it clear they want to resolve issues and they too, want change. 

In February, during what can only be called a very difficult period for the Canadian team, I put out a Twitter poll to ask Canadians if they might consider supporting the team if they needed to. The results were mixed and included emphatic yeses, to those saying it isn’t the responsibility of the public to solve problems created by the federation. 

The Canadian women haven’t had to resort to such measures as crowd-funding, and the reality is that teams only do it when they are desperate. Wouldn’t teams love to work collaboratively with their federations in a manner that is supportive? I doubt teams are happy to be facing off with the same organization that is supposed to be supporting them and offering them the tools to do their jobs a month away from a mega event. 

The situation seems discouraging but Cameron remains hopeful. I just wish players didn’t have to worry about financial means and could focus on being magnificent on the pitch. But here we are. 

Soccer North is back with a focus on the Canadian women’s team as it prepares for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Join host Andi Petrillo and special guests on Friday for insight and analysis leading into tournament. 



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