DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer
A tour by the Australian women’s team to the United States this month was officially canceled a day after a players’ union said stalled contract talks meant the Matildas would not make the trip to play two matches against the World Cup champions.
David Gallop, chief executive of the Football Federation Australia, told a news conference in Sydney on Thursday that the union made “extraordinary demands.”
The Professional Footballers Australia, a union representing male and female players, on Wednesday announced the tour would be called off after players refused to go to practice in Sydney. The national federation confirmed the cancellation after hours of speculation that strike-breakers were being sought to undertake the tour.
The collective bargaining agreement expired in July, and the Matildas have not been paid in two months. The union is seeking an increase in wages, international match payments, improvements in accommodations, and other benefits.
The Matildas, who lost to Japan in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals, want an increase in their 21,000 Australian dollars ($14,475) a year contract to $40,000 Australian ($28,000). FFA has refused to increase their salary, which is based over a six-month playing period, to the higher figure, saying the increase was not sustainable.
U.S. Soccer said Haiti would replace Australia in the matches in Detroit on Sept. 17 and Birmingham, Alabama, on Sept. 20. Each match has sold more than 31,000 tickets.
Matildas coach Alen Stajcic reportedly tried contacting players to see if they would still be willing to play despite the union ruling. News Corp Australia reported that six players, including captain Lisa De Vanna, broke ranks with the union.
“I just want to play for my country. It’s all I want to do,” De Vanna was quoted as saying. “If my coach calls me and asks me to play I will always make myself available.”
PFA chief executive Adam Vivian said he informed the FFA of the strike action after a team meeting.
“The players are currently uncontracted, and are under no obligation to participate in any Matildas-related activities,” Vivian said. “The players feel they have been left with no option other than to take this course of action.”
Matildas forward Ashleigh Sykes told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio that the contract dispute was forcing players to choose between continuing their international careers or quitting to find other work.
“Things are getting quite tight … to try and get through for the last two months and continuing into the future,” she said. “Who knows what’s going to happen?
“For me it’s coming down to almost a choice now. Do I make myself available for Matildas duties, or do I work?”
The Australian team’s pay issues received support from U.S. players Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd.
Goalkeeper Solo tweeted: “Only #respect for @TheMatildas. Will miss competing against their great team, but proud of their fight for what’s right! #equality,” while midfielder Lloyd posted: @ TheMatildas are courageously fighting for what is right. #priclessrolemodels.”
The men’s national team boycotted community events before a World Cup qualifier last week.
The PFA is also negotiating for more pay for domestic A-League players, and an increase in each of the 10 team’s salary caps.
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.
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