Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dollars and Sense

"There's no way you could hold a job and do this," Lang says. "And $18,000 isn't much to live on. The bottom line is most of their girls live at home with their parents and have zero assets and zero savings. It's not what you envision yourself doing at 27 or 28 years old." - Globe and Mail

So like most things in life it basically comes down to money.

As Canadian national team athletes, the players receive $18,000 annually, tax free, from the federal government, but players like Kara Lang and Carmelina Moscato say that hardly covers their needs considering they train nearly full time – the women’s team will be together for 122 days in 2011, including several lengthy trips abroad.

The money they have received comes in the form of bonuses – often negotiated during the competitions – that are provided out of prize money paid by FIFA.

The team did not get paid for the 2008 Olympics and would not have been compensated for the World Cup qualifying tournament had it failed to make the World Cup.

“As national team players, we're just searching for something a little bit more stable, something a little more guaranteed,” said Christine Sinclair.

This is a battle that has been going on for years and there is much ground to be made up.

For comparison's sake the six year agreement U.S. Soccer signed with their women's players in 2006 looks like this:

The contract, negotiated by the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Players' Association, calls for the U.S. Soccer Federation to pay at least $1.28 million annually to players in residency according to the Associated Press. At least 14 of these 20 players are guaranteed annual salaries of $70,000 with the six others assured of being paid at least $50,000.

Additionally, the USSF has the option of employing up to four more players at $30,000 per year and the right to call in other players for trials lasting up to six weeks.

Additionally, players earn $1,000 bonuses for victories in all non-World Cup and non-Olympic games. For the 2007 Women's World Cup and the 2008 Olympics, each player got $10,000 for being on each qualifying tournament roster; $10,000 for making the 20-woman roster for each tournament, $50,000 for finishing first in each event, $20,000 for placing second and $10,000 for taking third place.

Should the Americans win either the Olympics or the Women's World Cup, the players would split $1.2 million for a 10-game celebration tour.

Now people will say that's not a fair comparison as the Americans have so much more money to spend. This is true but also this is not the fault of the Canadian players.

Raising and GENERATING funds is the responsibility of the Canadian Soccer Association not the players. The association must move beyond Sport Canada hand-outs (which are in danger in any case if they can't get the much talked about but little acted upon Long Term Athlete Development plan in place), sponsorships (such as they are) and start generating monies through other sources.

Going back to the American model (two things they do well - win and generate $$) prior to the 1994 World Cup the Americans knew they needed to accomplish a number of goals. They needed to raise the profile of the sport, test some venues, play some quality opponents and importantly they needed to raise some cash.

Thus was born the U.S. Cup a manufactured competition with the aim of addressing the identified needs. Was there risk involved? Certainly but bringing in quality sides with proven records and links to established ethnic groups (playing Germany in Chicago and England in Boston for example) minimized the risk.

The result? In the two editions of the U.S. Cup prior to the 1994 World Cup the U.S. played host to Ireland, Portugal, Italy, Brazil, England and Germany and over two years attracted just under 500,000 fans with the six games involving the U.S. drawing an average attendance of just over 35,000 - money was made. This at a time when the U.S. was coming off their first appearance at the World Cup since 1950, had no national pro league and had yet to leave us trailing in their wake.

What was required was a vision and a plan.

The CSA despite the promise of a newly adopted governance model has shown little vision and even less long term planning in the past but this showdown with the women's team and their coach provides them with the opportunity to do both and show that things are going to be different moving forward.

Get creative, let people do their jobs and reward people for what they have done and continue to do. In other words, show them the money and get out of the way.

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