Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis resigned Monday, citing a need for change in leadership amid public conflict with both the women’s and men’s national teams,
“While I have been one of the biggest proponents of equalizing the competitive performance environment for our Women’s National Team, I will unfortunately not be leading this organization when it happens. I acknowledge that this moment requires change,” Bontis said in a statement.
His resignation from the federation comes just weeks after the Canada WNT threatened a work stoppage prior to the SheBelieves Cup. Players boycotted training with the intention of not playing games but then were pushed back into working under threats of litigation, their players association said.
The team instead played the tournament under protest. Longtime midfielder Sophie Schmidt said she even considered immediately retiring over the conflict.
“They would not only take legal action to force us back to the pitch, but would consider taking steps to collect what could be millions of dollars in damages from our Players’ Association and the individual players currently in camp,” a PA statement read.
The reigning Olympic gold medalists are pushing for equitable payment and treatment in congruence with support given to the men’s team, but they also are pushing for greater financial transparency after being notified of funding cuts across all programs.
New details have emerged about what exactly those funding cuts have looked like, as during a crisis in funding for the men’s team’s campaign at the 2022 World Cup, the situation behind the scenes became even more drastic for Canada’s federation.
According to TSN reporter Rick Westhead, the only reason the Canada WNT could pay for their two November 2022 friendlies against Brazil was due to a private donor stepping in after Canada Soccer told the team they had no funds for the camp or games.
A source close to the Canada Soccer board told Westhead that Canada Soccer funding is “on life support; we’re soliciting handouts.” Per the source, the same donor stepped in to fund costs for the U-20 and U-17 camps during the same international window. Players also say they have not been compensated for work performed in 2022.
“Canada Soccer and both of our National Team Programs have the real potential to sign a historic collective bargaining agreement. Once signed, it will be a landmark deal that will set our nation apart from virtually every other FIFA Member Association,” Bontis said in his resignation statement.
However, questions still remain exactly where Canada Soccer’s revenues are being re-invested, and the federation appears to be reluctant to open its books to its athletes.
The Canada Soccer Players’ Association received a no-board decision from Ontario’s Ministry of Labour on Feb. 15, after which they can legally go on strike. That no-board decision, and a subsequent notice period, was likely the legal basis behind Canada Soccer’s pushback on their strike during the SheBelieves Cup.
Canada WNT players have said they will continue a work stoppage into the April international window if their concerns have not been addressed. April is the final international break before the 2023 World Cup, in which Canada is set to participate.