CanMNT cancels game with Panama over labour dispute

CanMNT player Iké Ugbo on May 31, 2022

The CanMNT cancels game with Panama over labour dispute. After the CanMNT skipped practice for the past two days due to a pay dispute with Canada Soccer their international friendly with Panama was canceled.

CanMNT cancels game against Panama

The CanMNT cancels game at BC Place

The game was canceled two hours prior to kick-off at BC Place in Vancouver, BC with fans outside the stadium sporting red and white hoping for a game to be played but were left disappointed. Instead, Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis who had flown in on Saturday from Toronto met the media to discuss the issue at hand.

“My job as president is a responsibility to the fiduciary and stable health of this organization, not just for the last 120 years that we’ve been alive, but for the next 100 years we’re going to be alive,” he said at a Sunday afternoon press conference. “And I can’t accept that offer that will put our organization in a financial position that is untenable.”

That was in response to a statement the men’s team made after the game was canceled which outlined the key issues in the previous agreement.

“It’s time we take a stand for the future of soccer in Canada,” “We want to work together with our organization, but the relationship has been strained for years,” the statement said. “And now, Canada Soccer has disrespected our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise the standards and effectively advance the game in Canada.”

The players are demanding a deal that gives them 40% of prize money and a comprehensive family and friends package for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. A previous report had Canada Soccer offering 10% and only 2 tickets for each player’s family with no accommodation or travel included.

Nick Bontis: Proposal not finally viable

Bontis said the proposal the players made is not financially viable while the players are also demanding a review of the deal Canada Soccer signed with the Canadian Soccer business which is a 10-year deal for sponsorship and broadcast deals.

“We need the terms of this agreement to be disclosed and corrected”. “We want to know who signed this deal that has handcuffed our association. Why have Canada Soccer given up autonomy of the greatest opportunity to grow our program in years?”

Once again Bontis defended the deal that was agreed upon saying Canada Soccer Business has been pivotal to growing the sport in Canada. The Canadian women’s team also issued a statement on Sunday and stood hand in hand with the men’s team.

“The Women’s National Team has been bargaining in good faith with Canada Soccer since January 29, 2022. We have been clear throughout these discussions (and before) that we are seeking an agreement with Canada Soccer that will provide equal pay to members of our team relative to the Men’s National Team. The Women’s National Team will not accept an agreement that does not offer equal pay.”

The chair of Canada Soccer Business Scott Mitchell also gave his two cents on the situation and says he agrees with the fact for key transparency from Canada Soccer.

“We are proud of our agreement with Canada Soccer and what it means to the Canadian soccer ecosystem,” “We are prepared to be fully transparent about our agreement which has included an unprecedented amount of revenue to Canada Soccer in the past 18 months in the forms of sponsorship and international media dollars.”

Missed training sessions and what is next

The World Cup which is scheduled for the end of November is coming fast and Bontis says the team is missing out on key preparation time which could affect how they play in Qatar.

“I’m sorry that the game didn’t occur today, not just for the fans. But I’m sorry for the technical staff, the coaching staff,” “(Head coach) John Herdman, at the beginning of this window, had 16 training sessions with the national team between now and Qatar. That number went to 14 today.

“We cannot afford to lose these opportunities to have our men display the performance that I know they’re capable of when they go to Qatar.”

After today CanMNT’s next scheduled game is on June 9th in the first game of the Concacaf Nations League against Curacao also at BC Place in Vancouver.

“We want to apologize to our fans,” said the players in their statement, “Playing at home with your support is everything to us. We hope Canada Soccer will take decisive steps to work with our team so we can be back on the field for our match (in Vancouver) on June 9.”

What happens if the game is not played on Thursday

If the game doesn’t get played on Thursday, Canada Soccer could face fines if they decide to pull out of the event due to the dispute or if they are not able to agree to a deal on time and Bontis says it is a situation he is trying to avoid at all costs.

“If we cannot arrive at a deal, and the players refuse to play the Curaçao match, that will be a CONCACAF issue to address under the auspices of FIFA,” he said. “But our intention has always been to continue to come up with a solution as soon as possible.”

40,000 tickets were sold for this game which was originally supposed to be played against Iran but was scrapped due to political backlash and Panama was named a late replacement only five days ago.

Photo Credit: Canada Soccer on May 31, 2022.