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Canada’s women’s soccer team is more popular than ever, so where’s the merchandise?

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When Canada’s national women’s soccer team beat Sweden for Olympic gold last month, more than four million Canadians were glued to the dramatic game. Among them was Marina Peres Labelle, 12, who is part of the soccer program in Pointe-Claire, Que.

She and some of her teammates would have liked to wear a team jersey in their size to show their support, but their hunt proved unsuccessful.

“We couldn’t find any women’s jerseys and were quite disappointed because they had a bunch of men’s jerseys,” Marina said. “So we thought it was really unfair.”

Fans – and even players – of Canada’s women’s soccer team find it frustrating that it is still so difficult to buy player jerseys, even after an Olympic gold medal.

Some experts say Canada Soccer should have been better prepared to market its top performing team.

Women’s football is a big demographic to overlook. Approximately 85,000 girls are currently registered to play soccer in Canada. The national team is an idol for many of these girls and young women, who would have liked to show their support during the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo.

About 85,000 girls play organized soccer in Canada. (Fred Chartrand / The Canadian Press)

As for the men’s team, which did not qualify for the Tokyo Games, the national team jersey of star Alphonso Davies is available at several retailers in red, black and white.

While other countries provide their women’s teams with additional jerseys in different sizes for family and friends, in Canada it is not the same situation. A family should order a custom-made swimsuit with their daughter’s name on it.

“My family doesn’t have a Nike ‘Labbé’ jersey – and we were Nike [sponsored] for how long? – and none of my family has one, ”said Team Canada goalie Stéphanie Labbé. “My parents shouldn’t have to go to a website to order my sweater. They would happily do it, but they shouldn’t have to. “

In a statement, Nike Canada spokesperson Angineh Storino said the company “is working to make additional jerseys available so that fans can show their support and pride.”

Christine Sinclair leads the team on the pitch at Miyagi Stadium ahead of the women’s quarterfinal match between Canada and Brazil at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Getty Images)

A missed opportunity

Canada has missed many opportunities to better market the Women’s National Team, including having merchandise ready to sell well in advance of the Tokyo Olympics, said Rachel Allison, author of Kicking Center: the gender and sale of professional women’s football and associate professor of sociology at Mississippi State University.

It wasn’t as if gold was out of reach for the team: they won bronze at the two previous Olympics.

“The chance that they were getting that level of visibility was always there and something that they should have been willing to move on and capitalize on quickly,” Allison said. “And it doesn’t seem to have happened that way.”

In comparison, US Soccer offers a variety of items, including individual player jerseys in multiple colors and sizes, sold at the official team store and other online outlets and stores around the world. whole.

A young American fan holds a scarf ahead of the 2019 Women’s World Cup quarter-final match between France and the United States in Paris. (Franck Fife / AFP via Getty Images)

Allison recalls attending the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and seeing exhausted American jerseys almost everywhere. Additional orders had to be placed.

“They have learned the hard way that they are leaving money on the table that they should take advantage of,” she said.

Jessie Fleming scores Canada’s first goal from a penalty spot in the women’s gold medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. (Naomi Baker / Getty Images)

When the Women’s World Cup was held in Canada in 2015, American jerseys were very popular here as well.

Carmelo Sansalone’s family owns Evangelista Sports, a chain of stores focused on soccer in Quebec. He said American women’s jerseys were selling very well in 2015, but people were also buying Team Canada jerseys at the time. Overall, he said, he’s disappointed with what was offered to Team Canada, especially after the women’s team won Olympic gold.

“I feel like there’s just a lot more potential. They just won the Olympics two months ago, and the next day was, ‘That’s it. “There just wasn’t much to do with it… it’s unfortunate.”

A new deal can mean new hope

There is hope, however. Canada Soccer has signed a new deal with Fanatics, one of the largest officially licensed sporting goods retailers in the world, including for the NHL, NFL and other national soccer teams.

But it’s not yet clear whether Fanatics will produce women’s jerseys or offer them in a variety of sizes. Currently they have a very limited selection of individual jerseys for the Canadian women’s team.

Vijay Setlur, professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University, says negotiating contracts for commodities can be complicated. (Submitted)

Contracts to produce and distribute products like sweaters, t-shirts and other items are complex and often time consuming, said Vijay Setlur, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business at Toronto.

Canada Soccer “just hasn’t done enough” with the opportunities they’ve had, he said, but believes the future is bright for the men’s and women’s teams, as well as the ability to play. their supporters to get their hands on sweaters.

“Their new agreement with Fanatics Canada will bring the products to market much faster now. “

Players were able to voice concerns to Canada Soccer about the lack of items available, saying they wanted to see merchandise available online, in stores and at games.

Janine Beckie’s Manchester City jersey is available for purchase online, but her Team Canada jersey is not. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / Pool / The Associated Press / File)

Canadian forward Janine Beckie, who currently plays for Manchester City in the FA Women’s Super League in the UK, is optimistic that things will improve.

“We will continue to push them and hold them accountable if we don’t feel like we’re getting what we deserve. The dialogue is good. The relationship is there and things are starting to happen.”

Canada Soccer did not respond to CBC’s request for comment.

Women’s soccer in Canada is at a crossroads – what’s next?

In partnership with Homestand Sports, CBC is examining the state of women’s soccer in Canada and what needs to happen to take the sport to the next level. 5:02


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