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The Canada men’s national soccer team’s game against Panama has been canceled amid wage disputes

VANCOUVER — Canada’s men’s soccer team has refused to play a scheduled World Cup warm-up game against Panama amid a contract dispute between the players and the sport’s national governing body.

Canada Soccer confirmed that Sunday’s game at Vancouver’s BC Place had been canceled less than two hours before kick-off. Hundreds of fans in red and white uniforms lingered outside the stadium after the news broke.

The Canadian players issued a statement Sunday afternoon saying they decided not to play the game because negotiations for a new deal had been “unnecessarily prolonged”.

“It is time for us to take a stand on the future of football in Canada,” the statement said.

The players said they wanted more transparency from Canada Soccer, changes in how the organization was run and a World Cup compensation that includes 40 percent of the prize money and a “comprehensive friends and family package” for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“We want to work with our organization, but the relationship has been strained for years,” the statement said. “And now Canada Soccer has disregarded our team and jeopardized our efforts to raise standards and effectively advance the game in Canada.”

The players’ proposal is not financially viable, said Canada Soccer President Nick Bontis.

“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 are alive, but for the next 100 years that we will be alive,” he said a press conference on Sunday afternoon: “And I cannot accept this offer, which will put our organization in an unsustainable financial position.”

The players also want a review of the deal Canada Soccer signed with Canadian Soccer Business in 2019. The 10-year deal will see Canadian Soccer Business represent both the men’s and women’s national teams in all sponsorship and broadcasting deals.

The players’ statement said the deal “completely impacted[Canada Soccer]’s ability to capitalize on the success of our senior national teams on the pitch.”

“We must disclose and correct the terms of this agreement,” it said. “We want to know who signed this contract that put handcuffs on our association. Why did Canada Soccer give up autonomy on the biggest opportunity in years to grow our program?”

Bontis defended the agreement, saying Canada Soccer Business has been “critical” in building the sport in Canada.

Canada Soccer Business chairman Scott Mitchell issued a statement Sunday night saying he “fully supports” calls for more transparency from Canada Soccer.

“We’re proud of our agreement with Canada Soccer and what it means for the Canadian soccer ecosystem,” he said, 18 months in the form of sponsorships and international media dollars.”

Players are also calling for a fair pay structure for men’s and women’s teams and the development of a women’s national league.

Canada’s women’s team said in a statement on Sunday that they were happy to hear the men’s team’s request, but noted that the women’s team does not see equal FIFA percentages for the two sides as equal pay.

“The women’s national team will not accept any agreement that does not offer equal pay,” the statement said.

The women’s team also said they see the proposal, put forward by Canada Soccer on Friday for both teams, as a “positive step” towards equal pay between the men’s and women’s teams, “and a step that provides a basis for further negotiations.” “

The US Football Association recently approved collective agreements that, for the first time, equalize the pay of men’s and women’s teams.

Canada’s men’s team has canceled two training sessions planned for Friday and Saturday due to the contract dispute.

With the World Cup set to begin in November, the Canadians are missing out on valuable time together on the field, Bontis said.

“I’m sorry that the game didn’t happen today, not just for the fans. But I’m sorry for the technical staff, the coaching staff,” he said. “(Head Coach) John Herdman, at the start of this window he had 16 training sessions with the national team until Qatar. That number has risen to 14 today.

“We cannot afford to miss these opportunities for our men to show the performance I know they are capable of when they go to Qatar.”

With the World Cup set to begin in November, the Canadians are missing out on valuable time together on the field, Bontis said.

“I’m sorry that the game didn’t happen today, not just for the fans. But I’m sorry for the technical staff, the coaching staff,” he said. “(Head Coach) John Herdman, at the start of this window he had 16 training sessions with the national team until Qatar. That number has risen to 14 today.

“We cannot afford to miss these opportunities for our men to show the performance I know they are capable of when they go to Qatar.”

The men’s side have not played on home soil since their 4-0 win over Jamaica in Toronto on March 27 and their World Cup berth. It has been even longer since the side played in Vancouver, most recently in March 2019 when Canada beat French Guiana 4-1 in CONCACAF Nations League qualifiers.

Canada, ranked at No. 38 in the world, are scheduled to start their CONCACAF Nations League game against No. 79 Curacao in Vancouver on June 9.

“We would like to apologize to our fans,” the players said in their statement. “Playing at home with your support is everything for us. We hope Canada Soccer will take decisive steps to work with our team to get us back on the field for our game (in Vancouver) on June 9th.”

Canada Soccer could face fines if the men’s team withdraws from Nations League competition.

It’s a scenario the organization is still trying to avoid, Bontis said.

“If we cannot reach an agreement and the players refuse to play the game on Curacao, it will be a CONCACAF issue that needs to be addressed under the auspices of FIFA,” he said. “But our intention has always been to move forward with a solution as soon as possible.”

It is not the first time that Canada Soccer has canceled a game scheduled for the current international window. Canada were originally set to host Iran in a friendly at BC Place on Sunday, but the game drew heavy criticism. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “not a very good idea” to invite the Iran team to play.

An Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff from Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing 176 people, including 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

More than 40,000 tickets for the Canada-Iran game were sold before it was canceled by Canada Soccer on May 26. Panama was named as a substitute opponent on May 31.

Canada has not competed in a World Cup since 1986. They will open this year’s tournament on November 23 against No. 2 Belgium before taking on No. 16 Croatia on November 27 and No. 24 Morocco on December 1.

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