The Whitecaps and the Information Age
I started with the Whitecaps in 1979 as a fan, and later was hired by the club to handle media relations. As I look at this new website, I can’t help but marvel at how much things have changed over the years and how easy it is now to stay up to date with club happenings.
When the Whitecaps first began operation in 1974, they did so without the Internet or computers, and before fax machines were widely available. When something happened at the club, a news release would have been written on a typewriter, and distributed to the media by courier and phone. The only way to follow the club day-to-day was by TV, radio and newspaper, which for a die-hard fan rarely seemed enough. League standings printed in the newspapers were usually wrong, so really keen fans had to track the standings themselves. The most up-to-date source of player stats was the Wavelength, a monthly newsletter mailed out by the Whitecaps Supporters Club.
Thankfully, when I first became a fan, road games were broadcast on the radio, and I spent many a night listening to Garry Raible and Ian Michaud describe the action. But then in the Vancouver 86ers era of the eighties and nineties, broadcasts were rare. Following the team on the road meant listening for score updates on news radio every 30 minutes, and many times not getting even that.
Then came the Internet. Suddenly there was a way for soccer fans across North America to connect, sharing their passion and information, and making up for the lack of coverage in the mainstream media. In the early days it was on Usenet in rec.sport.soccer and via email on the North American Soccer mailing list. The first 86ers fan match report appeared on the Internet in 1995, written by yours truly. Not many people read it, as back then, the number of passionate North American fans online was around 100.
The web was still in its infancy in those days, and clubs didn’t yet have websites. But fans began creating sites, such as the BC Soccer Web, which is still going strong. Richard Howes, who now runs that site, also created the first 86ers website as a volunteer fan project. I helped create content for those sites, and was even given media credentials by the club in 1997.
A year later, Bob Lenarduzzi hired me to look after media relations for the club, working part-time from home for a modest honorarium. I eventually took over from Richard as webmaster, but most fans weren’t yet online, and communication with the media was still done via fax and phone. After every home game my assistant Pam Glass and I would phone all the local media to let them know the score, while my home PC would spend the night firing off faxes to 120 outlets across the continent. We had numerous landlines in the press box, and handsets for the media to use, because of course nobody had cell phones. Unfortunately, other clubs weren’t as well organized, and for road games it could be a challenge finding a press box number that somebody would actually answer in order to get score updates.
Of course it’s a completely different world now. The Whitecaps FC communications department is larger than the entire front office staff from when I first joined the club. Games are streamed over the Internet and updated via Twitter, and the latest news is always just a click away, or coming direct to your cell phone. So welcome to the future! It’s going to be fun.