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Priestman has full support of Canada Soccer

Jason deVos says disappointment is an understatement when it comes to Olympic champion Canada’s early exit at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Canada’s coach Bev Priestman gestures during the Women’s World Cup Group B soccer match between Australia and Canada in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, July 31, 2023. Jason deVos says disappointment is an understatement when it comes to Canada’s early exit at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. But Canada Soccer’s interim general secretary also says Priestman has his “full support.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Hamish Blair

Jason deVos says disappointment is an understatement when it comes to Olympic champion Canada’s early exit at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Canada Soccer’s interim general secretary says there will be a full review of both the tournament and the women’s program.

“What I can say is that (coach) Bev (Priestman) has my full support. She knows that,” deVos told The Canadian Press.

“Bev is obviously taking a bit of time to be with her family right now,” he added. “So when she returns, I’ll sit down with her. We’ll go through a very thorough process to review the tournament, the lead-up to the tournament, the entire year and the program moving forward with a view to learning where we can improve and how we can get better and ensure the team is set up for success in a very important two-game series that’s coming up in six weeks time.”

The seventh-ranked Canadian women face Jamaica in an Olympic qualifying playoff Sept. 24 in Kingston, Jamaica, and Sept. 26 at Toronto’s BMO Field. The 43rd-ranked Reggae Girlz went farther than Canada at the World Cup, finishing runner-up to France in Group F while relegating No. 8 Brazil to third place before falling 1-0 to No. 25 Colombia in the round of 16,

Canada failed to emerge from a tough Group B, tying No. 40 Nigeria 0-0, rallying to edge No. 22 Ireland and crashing 4-0 to No. 10 Australia in a do-or-die finale.

The Matildas and runner-up Nigeria both advanced to the knockout round. Third-place Canada returned home.

Australia went on to blank No. 13 Denmark 2-0 in the round of 16 while Nigeria lost to No. 4 England in a penalty shootout after a scoreless draw. The Matildas face fifth-ranked France in quarterfinal play Saturday.

DeVos, who was in Australia, said he did his best to support the Canadian campaign while keeping his distance from the team to let it go about its business.

“It was challenging,” said deVos, a, a former Canada captain and member of the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame. “When you don’t get the results that you hope to get, you want to get, it’s frustrating. I can sense certainly the disappointment from the players, from the staff. And certainly my heart goes out to them, because I’ve unfortunately felt that disappointment myself as a player and as a coach. And it’s difficult to get over and it takes time.”

Priestman, whose record at the Canadian helm is 22-10-9 since succeeding Kenneth Heiner-Moller in November 2020, does not have a fixed term to her employment agreement with Canada Soccer.

DeVos says while the Canadian women do not have any fixtures confirmed yet for FIFA’s October and November international windows, talks are underway with other federations.

“It’s been a bit challenging obviously with the Women’s World Cup and everyone’s focus on Australia and New Zealand and assuring that they were fully prepared and ready to go there,” he said. “We haven’t been able to put a great deal of attention on that just yet but I know that that’s going to be front and centre of everyone’s attention as we come back on line, when the staff are back in and ready to go in preparing for the games in September.

“We’ll be working pretty hard to try and make sure that we’ve good competitive fixtures for October and November.”

DeVos says work continues on a labour agreement with the men’s and women’s teams. While an interim deal, covering compensation for the women for 2023 including the World Cup, was struck during the tournament, both teams — in separate statements — expressed displeasure at the state of negotiations.

“Obviously it was a step forward for us, I feel, getting an interim agreement in place with the women’s team. There’s still more work to be done,” deVos said. “And all I can say is we remain committed to ensuring that the players have everything that they need to succeed on the field, so that they have the support mechanisms around them, whether it’s travel standards, accommodations, training standards, staff support, what have you, to set them up for success.”

As for revisiting Canada Soccer’s contentious agreement with Canadian Soccer Business, deVos says discussions are underway.

“It’s incumbent on us to get together and try to figure that out,” said deVos. “Nothing’s been finalized yet but we’re working toward that and working diligently on it.”

Canada Soccer Business essentially markets Canada Soccer’s product, on the field and off, via broadcast and sponsorship agreements. Canada Soccer, which does not hold an ownership stake in CSB, is reportedly receiving $3 million to $4 million a year currently under the deal.