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TO Star: Where's our women's soccer team?


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Where's our women's soccer club? Governing body accused of abandoning team despite past successes

Randy Starkman

Toronto Star

815 words

4 June 2007

The Toronto Star




Copyright © 2007 The Toronto Star

Forget about there being no place like home for the Canadian women's soccer team.

It turns out there's no place at home to play for this once-celebrated squad as they prepare for the prestigious women's World Cup.

They played in China last month. They're currently in New Zealand for two games. Then they're off to South America.

Colin Linford, president of the Canadian Soccer Association, said it's unlikely the women's team will have a single exhibition game on home grass before the Sept. 10-30 World Cup in China because they don't have the resources to stage one.

"We'd love to have a game, but are you going to bankrupt the association to do it?" he asked.

The Canadian men's team preparing for the under-20 World Cup being staged in Canada - the final is in Toronto - will have about a dozen games at home before the tournament begins June 30.

There's a feeling in soccer circles that the women's team has fallen completely off the radar since Linford took over last November.

The team has marquee names in Christine Sinclair, who contended for FIFA's women's player of the year the last two years, and Oakville's Kara Lang. But not only do they not rate a single home date in a World Cup campaign, they don't have a sponsor.

Linford said it's a vicious circle.

"What exposure can you actually give to the sponsors?" asked Linford. "Let's be fair. You say the women's team are not going to be playing any games in Canada prior to the World Cup. That's highly probable. So if you were a sponsor, what exposure would you actually get for being a sponsor within the country the team represents?"

Keith McIntyre, a prominent Canadian sports marketer, said the women's team "fell off the face of the earth" because the CSA failed to promote them.

"I mean I've rarely seen anything in print or in electronic media," said McIntyre. "What happens is it loses its momentum."

Things were dramatically different in the lead-up to the 2003 World Cup in the U.S., where Canada finished a strong fourth. The Canadian women's team drew large crowds to its seven home games - 18,000 and 19,000 to two matches at Frank Clair Stadium in Ottawa and 29,593 at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

Linford said despite the big crowds in 2003, the CSA lost money on every game because low ticket prices didn't match the expenses.

Karin Lofstrom, executive director of the Canadian Association for the Advance of Women and Sport, noted the CSA doesn't have "a history of being super supportive of the women's side." She said the question of equity has more to do with the effort made than the dollars spent.

"It's not like it's only been a problem this past year," said Lofstrom. "There's a need for it to be more than lip service."

Linford insists the women's program isn't being ignored, a claim echoed by Chris Collie, managing director of the CSA's marketing arm, Soccer Canada Properties.

"It's probably more a reflection of the under-20 team just being front and centre in so many different ways," said Collie. "Colin, with the executive and the board, they have to balance what the priorities are. ... In no way should that send a message the women's team or the men's team are any less important."

Linford has been unabashed in saying he believes a soccer nation's true worth is determined by its men's team. He's not prone to mention where the women fit in unless prodded.

"Obviously, the women give the country exposure," said Linford. "But if you're talking about major, major revenues and major, major sponsors, the men will always in any country in the world generate more money and more exposure and more interest than the women's game."

While Linford seems keenly aware of all developments on the men's side, he was a little wobbly in talking about the women's preparations when asked if the team had any tournaments before the World Cup in China.

"Uhhh, no. The Pan America (sic), I think they might have been involved in or we're looking at, but no tournaments as such, just exhibition games," said Linford.

The women's team booked a spot six months ago for the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro in July. They hope to reach the final against Brazil in Maracana Stadium before a sold-out crowd of nearly 100,000.

rstarkman @ thestar.ca

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Also in the Star:


Canadian women deserve more respect

Carrie Serwetnyk

Special to the Star

702 words

4 June 2007

The Toronto Star




Copyright © 2007 The Toronto Star

Tell me it isn't so.

I went to UBC last month to check out the women's national soccer team practice. They were in Vancouver in training for the World Cup which will take place in China in September. The mood is quiet, a bit sombre. They were preparing for fitness testing and a trip to New Zealand.

It's their first trip to New Zealand and I wondered aloud why they were going so far for a game. Perhaps they were trying to play more matches in the Pacific time zone. But I discovered they were having trouble finding teams to play. Funny ... it's a World Cup year and they can't find a match?

I ask a few more questions and I am absolutely shocked to hear that Team Canada does not have a sponsor. The marketing group for the CSA has somehow not been able to even spin a campaign to bring a peanut company for the squad. Apparently there have been nibbles from corporations, but they wither away under the barrage of bureaucracy at our national headquarters. As for playing at home, Canada has to cover the expenses of the visiting team, plus pay the production costs of any game on television, which is about $40,000.

Considering the women only have a budget of less than $150,000 (Canadian) for their matches in this World Cup campaign, it simply costs too much money for a home game, so they have to go away. It's the cheaper way to go. Which isn't the case south of the border, where the U.S. women's team has an annual budget of $10 million (U.S.).

If you wonder who is paying their bills right now, look to Sport Canada, where A-carded players receive $18,000. Greg Kerfoot, the owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, has kicked in $20,000 for each player out of his own pocket. The CSA has added a few uniforms and such. Bonus money? Yes, for men. Nothing for women.

Does anybody know about this?

Okay, I will admit it, I am from the Stone Age in women's soccer when we barely had a jersey, we met a couple of times a year and we were lucky if our neighbours knew our name. But today's generation has already proved itself. There are a few household stars like Kara Lang, Christine Sinclair, Charmaine Hooper and Andrea Neil. Our style of play isn't Latin finesse, but we finished fourth at the last World Cup.

I have been to friendly matches against Brazil in Montreal with 20,000 fans and 30,000 in Ottawa. People want to love our national women's team. It feels like a hockey game. Fans come from all walks of life wearing the maple leaf.

And the look on all the young girls sporting their team jerseys, painting their faces and waving the banner is the symbol of this generation's sporting freedom for women's opportunities.

The World Cup in China is going to be a huge event with large stadiums crammed to capacity. For an event of this magnitude, our Canadian women deserve more than a few obscure friendly games outside of our country.

This summer in Canada, we will host the best young male players during the under-20 world championship.

Ideally, we will have a few new hometown heroes if our Canucks succeed. More than 750,000 tickets have already been sold. Expect our nation to rise to the occasion and cheer our boys with fierce pride. In Vancouver, the Canadian women will continue to prepare outside of the limelight for their World Cup.

There will be the odd reporter, the curious bystander, the occasional fan who will happen upon them by chance.

It is unfortunate that none of us will have the chance to see the Canadian national women's team play at home - for the simple reason that they cannot afford it.

On the web: www.scrimmageville.com

Carrie Serwetnyk played internationally for Canada's national women's soccer team in the 1980s and 90s.

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