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Opinion: Southsiders Protests Are Well Meaning But Lacking In Direction

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In the days before the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake the Southsiders released a letter on their Twitter account entitled “We Demand Better.” I agree with this sentiment. The Whitecaps, despite beating RSL on Friday, have had some embarrassing results and you can sense that there’s a degree of apathy towards the club building in the city. Some small but noticeable protests could be an excellent way to send a message. The problem with the letter is, despite being called “We Demand Better,” it does not actually demand anything. Instead the letter is full of platitudes, vague statements, and ultimately meaningless phrases. Let’s go through it and I will show you what I mean.

“Last Friday, our club reached a critical impasse...The Whitecaps ownership, management, and coaching staff need to recognize and acknowledge that the ‘Meh good enough’ model of football that they are putting on the pitch week after week, is quite frankly, NOT good enough.”

This would be an okay start (despite frivolous quotation marks) if they went on to specify exactly what it is that they want changed. Unfortunately they do not.


uhhhhh...alrighty then.

“They are doing the players and the supporters a disservice in their continued complacency and the time has come for the supporters to stand as one and say ‘we demand better’.”

I agree that the Whitecaps have a bit of a complacency problem but this sentence doesn’t really outline exactly what the Southsiders want or the nature of their grievance. I kind of get what they mean but I don’t know what specifically they want to be changed. This might be forgivable if they went into some specifics later in the letter but they don’t.

“The Vancouver Southsiders hold firm in our belief that when it comes to football, our city and our nation are out of step with the rest of the world.”

This sentence does not mean anything. In what sense is our city out of step with the rest of the world? How is the nation being out of step (whatever that means) related to the Whitecaps? What are you talking about?

“We refuse to conform to Vancouver’s inherently quiet and reserved nature.”

This sentence means nothing, adds nothing, and frankly I’m a bit baffled they included it at all. It’s like someone who was involved in composing the letter has some unrelated complaints about the city of Vancouver and it bled into their angry soccer supporter letter.

“We are not fair weather fair-weather Vancouver ‘fans’.”

Good for you? Like the previous sentence this one doesn’t really mean anything when you get right down to it. One further point though. Quotation marks are for directly quoting something. You don’t “need” them to indicate “sarcasm” or “derision.” See how annoying that was?

The letter carries on in much the same way before outlining how the Southsiders plan to protest. One more section I want to call attention to though is this:

“if you are efficient, you get ‘results.’”

This is an odd sentence. It’s clearly in response to an answer the Whitecaps gave to Sports Illustrated about their ambitions. The Whitecaps said they had the ambition “be the most efficient and best managed club in MLS.” This has understandably drawn some derision from Whitecaps fans who want to see more spending. The thing is though, mocking efficiency is silly. It’s better to be efficient than it is to be inefficient. The criticism that should be levelled against the Whitecaps for making that statement is that they are not efficient. They are only using two of the three DP slots and both are being used on players who should be TAM players. They also spend a fair amount of money on very similar players. In some cases they sign players they basically already had. Brian Rowe is an example. He hasn’t played a game, makes 100k+ a year and isn’t a significant improvement on Spencer Richey or Sean Melvin. You can make cases for similar inefficiencies throughout the squad. But just because the Whitecaps aren’t doing a good job of efficiency does not mean that shouldn’t be something they aim for.

Overall I think the letter would be much better if the Southsiders made some specific demands. Perhaps that the Whitecaps reaffirm their top 25 club ambition and commit to being in the top 5 in MLS spending next year. Or it could be demanded that the Whitecaps be the highest spending Cascadia club. They could ask the Whitecaps to commit to filling all three DP slots with players making 1 million or more. They could urge the front office to fire the coaching staff. They could request a meeting with club management so that supporters could make some of their concerns about increased apathy to an uninspired team known. Any kind of specific well-defined demand really would have made the letter stronger. Without specific demands we are now in a weird place. The Whitecaps beat RSL so are we good now? I think most people would say no. Will the protests continue? At what point will they stop? What are the Southsiders’ terms of victory? When will the club have made sufficient changes that they will be satisfied? Is the biggest Whitecaps supporters group planning to be perpetually in strife with management? I don’t think that’s a very good outcome for anyone.