Members of the Canadian national women’s soccer team voted unanimously Thursday to form a players’ association — a first for the sport in Canada.
The association will be responsible for protecting and promoting women’s players’ rights in Canada and will also address discussions about compensation, playing conditions and other issues.
“The creation of the players’ association is the culmination of years of work by the nucleus of the current team to create a better and more robust system that recognizes and protects the rights of women soccer players in Canada,” Team Canada captain Christine Sinclair said in a statement released Thursday.
Diana Matheson, like Sinclair a member of the bronze-medal teams at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, emphasized the importance of the new association.
“This is an important step to help us advance player rights and issues in a more formal and organized way, and create the tools for the next generation of Canadian women’s soccer to do the same,” Matheson said in the release.
According to a CBC Sports report earlier this year, the Canadian Soccer Association is responsible for the salaries of players who compete in the professional National Women’s Soccer League. The salary of these players is reportedly between $7,200 to $38,700 US per season if they are not allocated by the Canadian or U.S. federation.
Male players on the Canadian national team are reportedly given a salary based on appearances.
Wage disparity between men’s and women’s teams has been a prominent issue both in Canada and in the United States.
On Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported that the U.S. women’s team was awarded $2 million for winning the gold medal at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup while the U.S. men’s team was given $16 million after being eliminated in the round of 16 at the World Cup the previous year.
In March 2016, five members of the U.S. women’s team filed a wage discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, claiming that they were paid nearly four times less than male players.
Three-time Canadian Olympian and two-time bronze medallist Rhian Wilkinson also felt the association’s creation was long overdue.
“We want to do what’s right for those of us who play today, but also to make sure that the players who come after us to represent Canada will be treated fairly and that they will always have a strong and unified voice.”