The Canadian Soccer Players’ Association has filed a $40 million lawsuit against 15 current and former Canada Soccer board members.

The players union filed a notice of application on Feb. 16 against Canada Soccer, as well as a statement of claim against the 15 current and former board members on Feb. 20. The documents were filed in Toronto’s Ontario Superior Court.

In the filing, the CSPA alleges a “negligence and breach of fiduciary duty” through Canada Soccer’s deal with Canada Soccer Business, signed in 2018. The deal gives CSB all of Canada Soccer’s marketing and sponsorship rights in exchange for an annual fee.

The lawsuit states that the deal “has created and continues to create serious risk to the ability of Canada Soccer to carry out its mandate.”

“The 2018 Canada Soccer board knew or should have known that the CSB agreement would, at best, deprive Canada Soccer of revenue that could be spent on development, and at worst, could compromise Canada Soccer’s ability to operate as a going concern,” the lawsuit reads. “In approving the CSB agreement, the 2018 Canada Soccer directors failed to demonstrate prudence, good faith, and any reasonable belief that such approval was in the best interests of Canada Soccer.”

Under the agreement, Canada Soccer receives a fixed annual fee of roughly $3 to $4 million, which will grow “only slightly over the initial nine-year years of the CSB agreement and not at all during the 10-year renewal period.”

“All other revenue generated by CSB in respect of the national teams is retained by CSB,” it adds.

Five of Canada Soccer’s board members named in the lawsuit currently reside on the board of directors.

“We have been made aware of a legal proceeding filed by the Canadian Soccer Players’ Association against the members of the 2018 Canada Soccer board,” said a Canada Soccer spokesman. “Our organization is currently seeking advice on this matter.”

Canada players are set to begin their Concacaf W Gold Cup tournament on Thursday against El Salvador. Coach Bev Priestman said that despite the timing, players are “currently focused on what’s in front of them.”

“To be honest, it’s something that’s being dealt with in the courts, and so I think from a players’ perspective we’re not going to comment on it right now,” newly-named captain Jessie Fleming said. “Just reiterating what Bev said, the mood in camp is really good and we feel really good as a group right now. It’s not just something that’s being talked about among the players at this point in camp.”

Canada women’s national soccer team has agreed to an interim deal with Canada Soccer that will cover compensation for 2023, including prize money from the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The players’ association announced the deal on Friday, but noted their disappointment in reaching the deal.

“As the extent of Canada Soccer’s financial constraints have been revealed, we have been forced to choose between compensation and the funding required to hold necessary training camps,” the statement read. “We have been forced to choose between receiving a fair share of the rewards from our teams’ successes at the World Cup and our commitment to equal pay and equal treatment with our men’s national team. These are choices we should not have to make.

“We are deeply disappointed to find ourselves without a more complete agreement at this crucial stage in our calendar.”

In a separate statement, Canada Soccer confirmed the agreement.

“This is another important step forward for equalizing the standard of care and pay equity for our players. We have been working collaboratively to find sustainable resolutions, and while there is more work to do, this deal ensures equal pay between both of our two national teams,” the statement said.

The interim deal ensures “at minimum” equal pay with the men’s team. However, there are “many more important items” that still need to be settled.

Previously, captain Christine Sinclair had said that the team, who are the reigning Olympic gold medalists, wanted to have a deal in place prior to the World Cup so that they could focus on soccer. At the time, a long-term solution was not expected.

“This isn’t over. We and the men’s national team remain committed to finding a long-term solution that provides for fair and equal treatment for our current national teams and investments in the future of Canadian soccer, but for now, our team just wants to focus on soccer,” the statement continued.

In a separate post, the players said that they would make no further comment on the issue until the tournament concludes.

Members of the Canada women’s national soccer team testified in front of members of Canadian parliament Thursday, revealing details of their ongoing negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

The women’s and men’s nationals team have been embroiled in a very public labor dispute with their federation. Ahead of Thursday’s testimonies, Canada Soccer released details of its proposed CBA to the public but did not give any notice to players.

Canada Soccer general secretary Earl Cochrane said the federation has been “negotiating in good faith” with the national teams, but players said the surprise release runs contrary to that statement.

“We feel quite disrespected by the way they conducted their business today,” Janine Beckie said. “We believe it should have stayed between the players association and the CSA. There were terms in their release that haven’t been shown to us.”

Canada captain Christine Sinclair spoke of the “culture of secrecy and obstruction” in the federation under former president Nick Bontis, who resigned in February. She also said she has “never been more insulted” than she was by Bontis.

“We met with him to discuss our concerns,” Sinclair said. “I was tasked with outlining our compensation ask on behalf of the Women’s National Team. The president of Canada Soccer listened to what I had to say and then later in the meeting referred back to it as, quote, ‘What was it Christine was b—-ing about?’”

She also added that pay equity is just “a little piece of the puzzle” in the wider fight between the women’s national team and Canada Soccer.

“I’m not sure honestly where we go from here,” she said. “There’s a few simple things that need to be addressed by the CSA.”

The fight is far from over for Canada Soccer. 

Despite recently announcing an interim funding agreement with Canada Soccer, which will cover the period of time in 2022 for which team members have not been paid, the CANWNT has said there remains “a lot of work to be done” to achieve a permanent deal.

The two sides have been in negotiation since January 2022. 

In a two-page statement on Friday, the Canadian soccer players’ association wrote that the interim deal announced on Thursday by Canada Soccer is “not a final deal.”

“It also does not solve the deeper issues around pay equity and equalization of supports and resources across the national teams that caused the players to take labor action in connection with the SheBelieves Cup,” they wrote. 

On Thursday, Canada Soccer announced a deal with the team, which they say is similar to that of the men’s team for appearance fees and results-based bonuses. 

“This is about respect, this is about dignity, and this is about equalizing the competitive environment in a world that is fundamentally unequal,” said Earl Cochrane, Canada Soccer’s General Secretary. “We have been consistent and public about the need to have fairness and equal pay be pillars of any new agreements with our players, and we are delivering on that today. 

“While this is an important step forward, and it signals progress, there is still more work to do to ensure both of our national programs are given the necessary resources and supports to prepare and compete.”

The deal came after president Nick Bontis resigned earlier this week and reports surfaced that detailed how a private donor had to step in and pay for the CANWNT’s friendlies against Brazil. 

According to the players’ association, a permanent deal has not been reached due to a multitude of factors: repeated failure by Canada Soccer to properly disclose financial numbers, the Canada Soccer Business deal, which they say pulls money away from the national teams, and the CANWNT’s fight for an agreement that “establishes fair and equitable standards.”

Provided that “meaningful progress” has been made in negotiations, players say that they will take part in the April FIFA window.

Thursday night’s SheBelieves Cup match featured as much action off the field as on, as the players of the Canada and U.S. women’s national teams protested inequalities prior to the opening kickoff.

Both teams’ players wore armbands that said “Defend Trans Joy” in support of trans rights. The players also wore purple armbands to signify gender equality, which the USWNT moved toward with its latest collective bargaining agreement and for which the Canada WNT is fighting with its national federation.

Prior to the game, the CANWNT wore purple shirts with a message on them: “Enough is Enough.” The team is in the midst of a dispute with Canada Soccer over equal pay issues, budget cuts and an overall lack of support from the federation.

In a statement, the Canadian Players Association said the team would be wearing purple “as a symbol of protest” due to its relation to gender equality.

“Considering the current circumstances, our players will continue to wear purple until our association has standards in place that ensure equal treatment and opportunity,” the statement read.

Both teams linked arms in solidarity before the kickoff.

“At the start of the eighth edition of the SheBelieves Cup, our players are united in continuing to raise awareness on issues of equality,” the USWNT Players Association said in a statement.

“Although we are now on the other side of this fight and can focus on our play on the field, our counterparts in Canada and elsewhere are experiencing the same pervasive misogyny and unequal treatment that we faced,” the statement continued. “We stand with all women’s footballers in calling attention to their collective fight, but also call on everyone to join and support the fight to eradicate ALL inequality and discrimination that exists in our sport.”

Following the match, which ended in a 2-0 USWNT victory, Canada captain Christine Sinclair addressed the USWNT’s support and the team’s own struggles on the field.

“Obviously we’re fierce competitors on the pitch, but the world of women’s football is very small and ultimately we support each other. The U.S., years ago, fought this fight. And now it’s our turn,” Sinclair said. “Their support has been amazing. They’ve helped really help amplify the message and get it going worldwide.

“We’re just exhausted. The first 10 minutes were rough. But I think there’s only so much people can do. But proud of the fight, I mean, it wasn’t a lack of effort out there tonight. We’ll continue the fight and we’ll move on.”

Canada coach Bev Priestman echoed those sentiments.

“In many ways, you think that your players are superhuman and they’re not,” she said. “And I think, I felt for what was in front of me, frustrated on the sideline of course because we started flat and I think it’s a result of the emotional and the training days lost and you add all those things up, they definitely play into it. Not to make excuses, but I thought the US came out really well.”

After Brazil’s own 1-0 win against Japan earlier in the day, Brazilian players expressed their solidarity with the Canadian team.

“We are together,” Marta said. “Women’s soccer worked so hard for being (at) this level and we can’t regress. We can’t take (a) step back. So we need to fight for everybody, develop for everybody. This is not acceptable.”

Debinha also voiced her support.

“We’re talking about the best team in the world. They just won the Olympic games. This position, I think it’s not good. And of course, we’re always gonna stand with them. And I just think they need respect,” she said. “It’s a shame what is happening, and if they need us for sure, women’s soccer, we’re always going to stand with them.”

Olympic gold medalist Sophie Schmidt announced on Tuesday that she will be retiring from international soccer after the 2023 World Cup due to what the team has described as unequal treatment from Canada Soccer.

“Following our meeting [with Canada Soccer] on Saturday, I immediately approached Bev [Priestman],” Schmidt told reporters on a press call organized by the Canada Soccer Players Association. “I told her of my intentions to retire from international soccer and I would like to fly home. She asked me to sleep on it.”

After that meeting with Canada Soccer, Canada’s women’s national team players say they were forced to end their work stoppage due to threats of litigation toward the union and the individual players currently in camp preparing for the SheBelieves Cup.

The players had boycotted training on Friday with the intention of also refusing to play games, in protest over unequal treatment compared to the men’s national team and a lack of financial transparency after being told that funding for both the first team and the youth national teams had been cut.

Captain Christine Sinclair described the players being at their “wits end” as they attempt to rectify both short- and long-term issues with only a few months before the World Cup.

“After a long chat with Sincy trying to debrief what has just transpired, she talked me off the ledge so to say, for lack of a better word,” Schmidt said. “She made me promise that I will see this final fight through, that we need to leave this place a better environment moving forward and ensure a sustainable pathway that gives girls an opportunity to be successful and to chase after their dreams.”

While Schmidt is committed to the fight for the future, she said she will not continue with the team after the World Cup. Outside of international soccer, Schmidt signed a two-year extension with the NWSL’s Houston Dash in the offseason.

“My views of the CSA have never been more concerning. I am still rocked to my core by the situations we are currently in,” she said.

The players say that talks of a strike are not over, and if they can’t come to a resolution with Canada Soccer, the team is prepared to refuse to play scheduled friendlies during the next international window in April.

“For me, it’s devastating,” OL Reign and Canada midfielder Quinn said about being forced to return to play. “I think we’ve come to a lot of realizations of the realities that we’re in with our organization, but for us we’ve put everything … [into] playing for our country. And to understand that our organization put us in that position, for me, it was shattering.”

The players emphasized that the entire Canada player pool, which expands beyond the 23 currently in camp for the SheBelieves Cup, is being included in decisions. They are united in pushing for the same resources the Canada men’s national team received during their 2022 World Cup campaign, as well as simple remedies like being paid for services rendered (players say they have not been paid for their work in 2022.)

With support from the men’s team, the women’s national team is also pushing for greater transparency from Canada Soccer about the financial discrepancies that have caused youth national team funding to be slashed despite record revenues in the past calendar year.

Canada’s women’s national team is entering the 2023 World Cup this summer as a top contender after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. They open the SheBelieves Cup against the United States on Thursday.

“It’s pretty disgusting that we’re having to ask just to be treated equally,” Portland Thorns and Canada defender Janine Beckie said. “It’s a fight that women all over the world have to partake in every single day, but quite frankly we’re really sick of it. And it’s something that now, I don’t even get disappointed by anymore, I just get angry about.

“Because it’s time, it’s 2023, we won the damn Olympic Games. And we’re about to go to the World Cup with a team who could win.”

The Canadian women’s national team players attended training on Sunday ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, but not without making statements of protest.

Players trained for roughly two hours, wearing their kits inside out or with tape over the Soccer Canada crest, per TSN’s Rick Westhead. The protests come as the Canadian players prepare to participate unwillingly in the SheBelieves Cup after Canada Soccer considered their attempted strike to be “unlawful” and threatened legal action in response.

The players had planned to boycott the friendly tournament in the United States over budget cuts, equal pay grievances and lack of support from the federation.

The Canada women’s national team launched a strike on Friday. The next day, Canada Soccer used union busting tactics to end the team’s strike, threatening to sue players for “what could be millions of dollars in damages.”

In a statement, Canada Soccer said that the players “were not and are not in a legal strike position under Ontario labour law.”

“Canada Soccer therefore took the necessary steps to ensure that such games will be played as scheduled,” their statement continued.

Longtime Canada captain Christine Sinclair pushed back against the federation’s representation of the events.

“[Canada Soccer] flat-out just lied,” she said. “And now the public’s being lied to. That’s how they operate.”

Canada defender Vanessa Gilles outlined the team’s full list of grievances on Saturday, while U.S. women’s national team stars Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn voiced their support for the Canadian players. Canada’s women’s national team has been negotiating a new CBA with an emphasis on equitable pay after their previous contract expired in 2021. The USWNT reached a landmark CBA with U.S. Soccer and the men’s national team last year guaranteeing equal pay.

The USWNT and Canada meet in the first game of the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET in Orlando, Fla.

Canada women’s national team is being forced to play in the SheBelieves Cup after Canada Soccer used union busting tactics to end the team’s strike.

The CANWNT began their strike on Friday over budget cuts, equal pay issues and lack of support from Canada Soccer. They had threatened to boycott the SheBelieves Cup if the issues were not resolved.

The two sides met on Saturday in what the players described as an “hours-long meeting.” But it was before that meeting that Canada Soccer informed the players that “they consider our job action to be an unlawful strike.”

Canada Soccer threatened to take legal action against them if they did not commit to playing in Thursday’s game against the USWNT. They also threatened to take steps to collect “what could be millions of dollars in damages” from both the players’ association and individual players.

“As individual players who have received no compensation yet for any of our work for Canada Soccer in 2022, we cannot afford the risks that personal action against us by Canada Soccer will create,” they wrote.

In a statement, Canada Soccer said that the players “were not and are not in a legal strike position under Ontario labour law.”

“Canada Soccer therefore took the necessary steps to ensure that such games will be played as scheduled,” they said.

National team player Janine Beckie told The Athletic that on Feb. 6 the team filed a “no-board” request to their conciliator that was essentially a request to strike. But as it has yet to be approved, resulting in it being unlawful. In Canada, an unlawful strike can be punishable by “substantial fines.”

But players maintain that the fight is not over.

“To be clear,” wrote captain Christine Sinclair. “We are being forced back to work for the short term. This is not over. We will continue to fight for everything we deserve and we will win. The SheBelieves is being played in protest.”

Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn are speaking out in support of the Canada women’s national team.

In response to budget cuts, equal pay issues and an overall lack of support from Canada Soccer, the team has gone on strike. They have said that they will boycott the SheBelieves Cup if the issues are not resolved.

“What do they have to do, win a gold medal? Sell out stadiums? Oh wait…” wrote Morgan, referencing the fact that the women’s national team are the reigning Olympic gold medalists. “It’s 2023, wake up Canada Soccer you’re on the clock.”

A number of national teams around the world have implemented equal pay resolutions in the wake of the USWNT’s landmark CBA, which guaranteed equal pay between the women’s and men’s teams.

Canada’s teams, meanwhile, have had ongoing talks for their own CBA and have previously called out disparities and corruption within Canada Soccer.

On Friday, Canada’s women’s team called for a change in leadership if a resolution cannot be reached.

“The players of the Canadian women’s national team are demanding immediate change,” wrote USWNT captain Sauerbrunn. “Treat your world-class players as world class.”

Janine Beckie and Christine Sinclair are calling attention to the pay disparities between the Canada women’s and men’s national teams.

In 2021, the men’s team was given over $11 million for expenses, while the women received just shy of $5.1 million. Both marked increases from 2020, though the men’s team’s budget jumped from $3.08 million while the women’s sat at $2.8 million in 2020.

That means that the gap between the two teams’ funding grew from roughly $267,000 to nearly $6 million.

“Numbers don’t lie,” wrote Beckie.

The Canada women’s national team has since gone on strike and has said that it will miss the SheBelieves Cup in protest, which is set to begin next Thursday.

Other players have also called out Canada Soccer’s lack of equality despite previous claims that they would do more to ensure that the women were paid equally. Beckie also tweeted out a video on Friday, in which Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis goes on the record prioritizing equal pay.

“The other right thing to do is to make sure whatever we pay the men, we pay the women. Because that’s the right thing to do,” he says.

Other Canadian stars like Desiree Scott joined in the public protest against Canada Soccer.

“We have been beyond successful as a program and is players have given our all to this team!” she wrote. “We are simply asking for what we deserve! Enough. Is. Enough! It’s time!