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Canada's men go on strike forcing Panama friendly to be called off

Canada's national football team
Canada qualified for their first men’s World Cup since 1986 when they beat Jamaica in March

The Canada men’s national team went on strike on Sunday, forcing a friendly with Panama to be called off.

The team’s refusal to play revolves around a dispute with the country’s football association, Canada Soccer.

Canada have qualified for the 2022 World Cup, only the second time they have reached the men’s finals.

The players released a letter accusing Canada Soccer of “disrespecting” the team in relation to negotiations around World Cup prize money.

Among several issues outlined in the letter is a request for an equitable pay structure, along with the women’s national team, that would see them earn 40% of World Cup prize money.

There are conflicting reports around the percentage of World Cup prize money the players have been offered by Canada Soccer.

TSN first reportedexternal-link that national team players had been offered about 10% of the total amount the country would get from Fifa, set to be at least $10 million (£8m).

On Saturday, Canada Soccer told TSN its offer was 60% to be split equally between players on the men’s and women’s teams.

“To be clear, the men’s national team demand was for 75-100% of the World Cup prize money,” Canada Soccer said in a statement.

“The association, in an effort to adhere to the principle of pay equity, proposed 60% of the Fifa World Cup prize money to be split between the two national teams (i.e. 30% + 30% to the players of each team) and 40% for the association.”

Canada Soccer president Nick Bontis later said the offer had been “benchmarked” against other national teams, adding: “Canada Soccer has been working with the players in good faith to find a path forward that is fair and equitable to all.

“We would like to have a facts-based discussion within the fiscal reality that Canada Soccer has to live with every day.

“Canada Soccer is committed to the principles of fairness and equity, and we believe we presented a fair offer to the players.”

Players also were reportedly upset about Canada Soccer’s arrangements for players’ families at the World Cup in Qatar, with only two family tickets offered per player.

Canada are due to play Curacao in the Concacaf Nations League on Thursday.

“Canada Soccer has disrespected our team and jeopardised our efforts to raise the standards and effectively advance the game in Canada,” read the letter released by the players, which apologised to Canadian and Panamanian fans.

“We hope Canada Soccer will take decisive steps to work with our team so we can be back on the field for our match on June 9.”

Analysis

BBC football reporter Simon Stone

The issue over the way the national team’s players get treated has been bubbling away in Canada.

The players believe the majority of commercial rights for the national team have been signed over to the Canadian Premier League clubs, which means money generated by the men’s team reaching the World Cup for the first time since 1986 will be diverted away from those representing Canada.

In addition to providing additional funds for both youth and women’s programmes, the players feel they should be rewarded for their achievements, having played for Canada for relatively small amounts of money over the intervening years.

The dispute has cost coach John Herdman some valuable match time and there is no guarantee it will be resolved before Thursday’s Nations League game with Curacao.

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