Canadian Football Association president Nick Bontis predicts that ongoing collective bargaining with Canada’s men’s and women’s teams will result in an “epic, historic pay equality deal.”
The association’s collective bargaining agreement with the women’s team expired in December. The men participating in the World Cup recently formed their own players’ association and are in talks for the first CBA.
Bontis said he reached out to captains Kristen Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt and other senior women’s players and their legal counsel in late January and told them “the table will be Something very different will happen.”
“I told them on the Zoom call that I pledged as president that I would achieve pay equity,” Bontis said. “This is a very important and fundamental policy that I want to have in place.”
Bontis spoke Wednesday on “Behind the Bench,” a weekly coaching webcast provided by the National Soccer Coaches Association of Canada (NSCAC).
Historically, most national teams have negotiated a percentage of World Cup bonuses, usually between 20% and 30%, Bontis said.
The Canadian men – returning to the football showcase for the first time in 36 years – want a higher percentage, Bontis said, “as a fan” he thinks they deserve it.
“They’re doing something for the first time in 36 years…but I know we have to do it in the context of pay equity. So anything about 50 percent is untenable.”
“Because it also means we have to pay women the same amount, and you can’t pay more than 100 per cent of the funds available,” he added.
FIFA paid out $400 million in prize money at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Champions France received $38 million, while the 17th to 32nd teams received $8 million each.
The agreement with the women is “95 percent complete,” Bontis said. But because of pay equality, men’s and women’s deals are linked.
He said negotiations with the men actually only lasted six or seven weeks, and it wasn’t until the end of August that the players hired legal counsel or registered as the players’ association.
“I’m really looking forward and hoping we can get something done before Doha,” he said. “But if we don’t, that’s okay too. Because everything, of course, is retroactive. Anything we negotiate ends up in the pockets of men and women. And frankly, on the women’s side, nothing is Remove, whatever we’re going to negotiate with the men, the compensation will be higher than what they’ve gotten in the past.”
He said he hoped pay equality would be extended to FIFA’s bonuses, “especially when it comes to 2026.”
Another element of the deal, Bontis said, is travel funding for the players’ friends and family so they can watch their games.
“We’ve given friends and family a very, very good amount of money,” he said. “Although we haven’t signed the agreement yet, friends and family (policy) are in place because their relatives were able to book hotels and flights for the last month anyway.”
The last issue, he said, is naming, imaging and licensing rights.
Noting the recent image deal signed with Alfonso Davies, Bontis said the association first struck a deal with the Bayern Munich star because he sold a “major percentage” of Canada’s shirts.
“Whatever agreement we have with Alfonso’s organization is exactly the same agreement we will have for the men’s and women’s teams.”
Bontis was elected president of Canadian Football in November 2020, succeeding Steven Reed. He has been a member of the Canadian Football Council since 2012 and serves as Vice President and Chairman of the Strategic Management Committee.
The Canadian governing body is a “little federation” with an annual budget of just over $20 million, competing with giants with more than 20 times the budget, Bontis said. Canadian Soccer’s $9 million in revenue comes from player registration fees.
“So my job now is to help our organization be more productive. That’s the most important thing. Because we can’t be a $20 million organization anymore. We have to come up with new revenue streams. We have to build new human capital … we have to build new programs.
“We have a gift that guarantees us two (men’s) World Cups in a row. That’s a gift. Not many federations can say that.”
Bontis said Canadian men and women will share the Qatar World Cup prize money equally.
“If there’s a small part left in the organization, guess what we’re going to do with that part? It’s going to be for friends and family. It’s going to be used for other spending to make sure (national team coaches John Hedman and Bev) Priestman) has everything they need to succeed in Doha this year and in Australia and New Zealand next year (at the Women’s World Cup). But it’s also about staff retention.”
“This includes John,” he added. “So I just want to assure you that this type of conversation and negotiation has been going on for months. Because we know John is a very, very hot commodity. We want to keep him here, 100% until 22 and 26 years.”
Then he added a warning.
“But I’m a realist, I’m a pragmatist. I can’t guarantee that anyone John on this call will stay with this organization. There are certain realities out there, and people have certain career aspirations. We have certain financial implications and limitations.”
He also said any additional money from the World Cup “will be used to strengthen and stabilize the women’s professional league”.
But said Canadian Soccer would not launch leagues or sponsor clubs. “Investors do it.”
The role of the Canadian Soccer President is a volunteer position. Bontis’s day job is chair of the Department of Strategic Management at McMaster University’s DeGroot School of Business.
Bontis said Canadian Soccer is looking for a chief operating officer and has a chief commercial officer position available.
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Neil Davidson, Canadian Press
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