FIFA women’s World Cup: Canadian interest higher than for men’s tournament, poll shows – National |

As the Canadian women’s soccer team prepares for the start of the FIFA World Cup, there appears to be more interest and greater expectations placed on them prior to the event than were on the men last year, new polling shows.

Team Canada, ranked seventh in the world, will play its first Group B match against Nigeria Thursday night in Melbourne. The month-long tournament is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Despite the distance and 14-hour time difference, 41 per cent of Canadians say they will be “paying close attention” to the matches, according to an Ipsos poll done exclusively for Global News.

Canadian interest in the men’s World Cup in Qatar last year was lower when Ipsos did a similar survey, with only 34 per cent saying they would watch the event closely.

Click to play video: '2023 Women’s World Cup: Canada top contender to bring home championship trophy'

2023 Women’s World Cup: Canada top contender to bring home championship trophy

The success and standing of the women’s team on the world stage are drawing more Canadians in, said Sanyam Sethi, vice president of Ipsos Canada Public Affairs.

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“We can pin it down to the performance,” Sethi said in an interview with Global News.

“Not only is the pride higher, but the expectations with the women are also higher, and that’s to do with the current performance and the rankings.”

For about one-third of the respondents, the women’s soccer World Cup is more important than the Olympics, which are also held once in four years.

Click to play video: 'FIFA Women’s World Cup: Soccer expert predicts Canada will have some tough competition'

FIFA Women’s World Cup: Soccer expert predicts Canada will have some tough competition

Older fans are driving the Canadian interest, the Ipsos poll showed, with millennials (45 per cent) and boomers (44 per cent) more likely than gen-Xers (36 per cent) to be tuning in to the World Cup, said Sethi.

What are Canada’s chances?

Canada is making its eighth appearance at the women’s soccer World Cup.

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Placed in the same group as Nigeria, Ireland and co-host Australia, they will have their hands full, said Gareth Wheeler, commentator at OneSoccer.

He is expecting Canada to advance from the group stage but said there could be some challenges for them along the way and it might not be as straightforward as expected.

“It’s going to be entirely competitive. I think there’s about five or six teams that can go in and win this tournament and I would consider Canada an outsider,” Wheeler said in an interview with Global News.

Canada has never won the women’s World Cup before but is heading into this year’s tournament as one of the teams to watch out for after bringing home the 2021 Olympic gold medal, according to Wheeler.

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Click to play video: 'Canada’s women’s soccer team argue they should be paid equal to male counterparts, say it’s the ‘same work’'

Canada’s women’s soccer team argue they should be paid equal to male counterparts, say it’s the ‘same work’

The World Cup has “different demands” with stronger teams, as well as a higher number of them, taking part compared to the Olympics, said Wheeler, but he added the Canadian side can’t be taken lightly.

“There’s a ton of character, there’s some good experience in this team as well. So let’s see if they can capture the imagination of the country all over again and go out there and shock the world and come away with a first World Cup,” he said.

“The odds are stacked against them, but (we) simply can’t put it past this group.”

Canada’s Christine Sinclair gestures during a training session ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, July 17, 2023.


To date, Canada’s best performance was a fourth-place finish in 2003.

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The Canadian team will be led by legendary captain Christine Sinclair, the world’s all-time leader for international goals. She is making her sixth World Cup appearance and is confident Team Canada can go all the way this year.

“The reality is there are six to eight teams probably in the world that can win this thing and we’re definitely one of those,’ said Sinclair during a news conference in Australia.

When asked about their predictions for the tournament, 44 per cent of Canadians said they were not sure how Canada will do.

For those who had an opinion, only six per cent said Canada will get knocked out in the group stage – compared to 16 per cent who said the men will have a similar fate.

Only a small proportion – 14 per cent – are confident the women will go all the way to win their first World Cup, while six per cent predict they will lose in the final.

Will the pay dispute distract players?

The tournament will be played against the backdrop of pay disputes, with a third of the participating teams without payment agreements in place for the players. That includes Canada, which has been without a labour deal since 2021.

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The Canadian players are seeking equal pay to the men’s team and have been negotiating a new contract with Canada Soccer for more than a year.

In March, Canada Soccer and the women’s national team struck an interim funding agreement to compensate players for the previous year after players complained they went unpaid.

Players say progress has been made in talks with the federation, but a hoped-for interim pay agreement before the team went abroad didn’t materialize.

The players have also said they’ve had to cut training camp days and full camp windows, as well as trim the number of players and staff invited into camps.

Click to play video: 'Canadian women’s soccer players “disrespected” by the release of details in proposed labour deal'

Canadian women’s soccer players “disrespected” by the release of details in proposed labour deal

Wheeler said he does not anticipate the pay dispute will distract players from trying to achieve their World Cup dream.

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“I completely understand the battle that they’re trying to fight here, but Canada is not alone in dealing with these issues. This is an issue across the board in the sport at the current time.”

The prize money for women has increased over the years but still dwarfs what the men get.

The total World Cup prize pool for this year’s women’s tournament is US$110 million compared to the US$440 million distributed among the men in Qatar last year.

For the first time, FIFA has promised at least US$30,000 for every player participating in the women’s World Cup.

A majority of Canadians (80 per cent) think the FIFA World Cup presents an opportunity to advance women’s sports, according to the Ipsos poll, while 73 per cent feel it’s an important demonstration of gender equality in sports.

“Women’s soccer is in a state of great growth and there’s potential there,” Wheeler said. “But players across the board are realizing that the economics that are being reflected aren’t at a level that they expect at this point.”

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between June 20 to 21, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,000 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

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— with files from The Associated Press


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