Former Irish women’s international and Vancouver Whitecaps women player Ciara McCormack has published an article which alleges that the Vancouver Whitecaps, BC Soccer, and the Canadian Soccer Association have perpetuated a culture that covers up for sexual abusers. I highly recommend you read the post in its entirety before reading this one, as this article doesn’t really make sense without the context. The reports are damning to say the least. Widespread bullying, sexual misconduct, and coverups thereof are alleged. Former Province writer Marc Weber has said that he has spoken with a number of former Whitecaps Women players and believes the allegations fully. This is an important issue not just to soccer fans but to everyone in B.C. The Whitecaps have built a training centre with 14.5 million in public money. Hundreds of B.C. kids play under the jurisdiction of B.C. Soccer (which is essentially joined at the hip to the Whitecaps). If those environments are protecting abusers than it is something that all of us must concerned with.
The most disturbing part of McCormack’s article is not that an individual coach was sexually harassing players, some of who were minors (though that is incredibly disturbing). Rather it is that it seems there was no appetite to remove the coach in question. According to McCormack, In 2008 there was apparently an “investigation” which amounted to the players involved speaking with a mediator who was hired by the CSA. The police were never involved despite allegations of sexual misconduct against youth players. This squares with what the mother of an alleged sexual assault victim in the boy’s academy told Global news back in 2017. Her quotes are quite disturbing:
“We felt that [they were] trying to downplay things quite a bit, because the boys are minors nothing would be done, basically...That’s the feeling that we were getting, that they were trying to convince us that because it was minors it was not as severe.”
though “Coach Billy,” is not named in the article, it is pretty clear who he is if you do a bit of googling. Until very recently he was in the employ of Coastal F.C. He has now been suspended in the wake of McCormack’s article. Coastal F.C have claimed multiple times through their twitter account that they were not aware of any of the allegations during the hiring process, and (in a now deleted tweet) that they even specifically reached out to the Whitecaps to figure out why they had parted ways with him and nothing was provided. If this is true (which...let’s just say “don’t know about that one, chief”) than it means for a decade there was a coach with these allegations against him, coaching teenagers, and it never occurred once to anybody in the Whitecaps organization to mention it to Coastal F.C. The Whitecaps work very closely with the BCSPL clubs and the coaching staff of the clubs are overflowing with former Whitecaps players and staff from the period McCormack describes so it boggles the mind that the allegations were never communicated by anyone.
And therein lies the problem. Between McCormack’s story, Coastal F.C’s claims that they were never told about the coach’s time as coach of the women’s team, and what the mother of the boy who was allegedly attacked said, it is clear that the Whitecaps have a policy of covering up allegations and trying to make these problems just go away rather than addressing them. You can say that people should be innocent until proven guilty, and this is all well and good, but if the Whitecaps are preventing investigations by not involving police in these cases then there can be no investigation and therefore no justice.
But I don’t want to just rehash everything McCormack said. What I am interested in is what are we as soccer fans, British Columbians, and Canadians going to do about this? Well it’s pretty clear that the Whitecaps are hoping that stories like this will just go away. So what we must be sure of is that the story does not go away until there are tangible steps taken to investigate the allegations and improve the protections for vulnerable people under the responsibility of the Whitecaps and the soccer governing bodies. As McCormack says in her article, everyone who was in a position to step in and take these allegations to the authorities is still in a position of power within the Whitecaps or B.C soccer. Bob Lenarduzzi, Rachel Lewis and Greg Anderson were all at the club during the time period McCormack describes.
Current Coastal F.C executive director Chris Murphy was also employed by the Whitecaps around the time when much of the coach’s alleged misdeeds took place. Since this was pointed out on Twitter, Murphy created an account to defend himself. He says he had no idea about the allegations due to working in a different department from the coach in question and that the coach joined Coastal two years before him.
One twitter user sums the situation up fairly well:
If at the time of his hiring, questions were asked that means one of three things. 1. Barely to no questions were actually asked of the right people. 2. @WhitecapsFC and @CanadaSoccerEN withheld info, or 3. The info was received and ignored.— Sweet G (@SwizzleGizzle) February 28, 2019
Not enough was done to protect the young people who were these people’s responsibility and they have not faced any consequences for it. This should change.
In many ways I am not in the best position to make this happen. I’m not a part of any supporters group and for most of the year I'm away from Vancouver at university. Supporters groups are in a much better position to organize demonstrations and such. I hope they will, especially after the story has been investigated more by journalists like J.J. Adams. But in the meantime what can the diaspora of unaffiliated fans accomplish? Well what we do best. Complain! The Whitecaps want this story to die so let’s kick up a fuss until they have no choice but to address it in a more substantive way than the corporate non-statement they gave J.J.
To accomplish this what we must do is make it clear that we will not be satisfied until some tangible action is taken. The blowback from the initial posting of the article has already led to the suspension of the coach, but as McCormack told J.J. Adams, this isn’t about one person. It’s about a system that does not adequately protect young people. To change that we will need a bit more than angry posting. The easiest way to let the Whitecaps know you mean business is, much like people did when they weren’t happy with Manager Carl Robinson, tell your ticket rep that you won’t renew unless you see some action taken. This is a much bigger problem, in the grand scheme of things, than negative tactics so it’s a worthwhile threat to make. But if you, like me, love some good posting then there are some ways your posting can be weaponized effectively. Every time the Whitecaps tweet they should be flooded with links to McCormack’s article and demands that they address the problem in a serious manner. The Whitecaps social media account is not the only pressure point online that can be hit. Part owners Steve Nash and Stephen Luczo are both on social media. If this story bothers you then tell them (in a respectful way of course) that you as a customer are not at all happy with the way the team they own is operating.
You can find them here:
In real life you can tell everyone you know about the story, even if they aren’t soccer fans. Remember, this is a story that effects all of us. Whatever you decide to do, don’t let the story go away until the Whitecaps, the CSA, and BC Soccer have done something. I’m not an expert in youth safety but I think a no exceptions policy of involving the police when accusations come forth would be a good starting point.