VANCOUVER, BC – Whitecaps FC announced today that the Sport Law & Strategy Group (SLSG) has been retained as the independent third party to conduct a thorough review of the Club’s current and past safe sport policies and procedures, and its management of those policies, to ensure the Club can learn from leading practices to best manage its national, provincial and local programs. The Club announced plans for this review in a letter on May 1.
“Our primary objective throughout the club is to provide a safe and supportive environment for athletes to practice, learn, compete, and achieve their best,” said Jeff Mallett, co-owner of Whitecaps FC. “Our commitment to athlete safety is at the heart of what we do. By engaging the Sport Law & Strategy Group to do this important work, we welcome experienced insights, best practices, and recommended deliverables to ensure we are recognized as a leader in safe sport practices throughout Canada.”
“I am appreciative of having the opportunity to sit down with Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett and share both what was experienced in the past and what our goals are moving forward,” said Ciara McCormack, a former member of the Whitecaps FC women’s team. “We were invited to review the scope of the investigation of 2008 and also had the opportunity to vet the group that the Whitecaps have chosen to lead the audit. It is obvious that we all share the common goal of making Canadian sport safer moving forward and I look forward to working together to make that happen."
“Several of us recently spoke with Jeff Mallett and Greg Kerfoot," added Eden Hingwing, a member of the 2008 Whitecaps FC women’s team and U-20 women’s national team. "As a follow up to that, I contacted the SLSG and was satisfied with their level of expertise. I am supportive of their appointment to conduct the review and believe it is the right way to move forward with efforts to create a safer sport environment for soccer players in Vancouver. My hope is that the level of responsibility being shown by Mr. Mallett and Mr. Kerfoot will continue and be an example to others, so that we will be able to create a better environment for athletes than what I experienced."
Added Eden, “Another player from 2008 who wishes to remain anonymous provided the following statement, 'I am fully behind the Whitecaps and their leadership in wanting to understand and learn from what happened in 2008. More importantly, I want to ensure that current and future athletes have a safer, healthier experience and I am confident that this process will help us achieve this goal. I also hope others will feel as safe and supported speaking with WFC and SLSG about their experiences as I did’.”
The Sport Law & Strategy Group was created in 1992 and has been offering safe sport services and leadership development to hundreds of sport organizations across Canada from community based to national level.
“We are very excited about bringing our deep knowledge of sport and best safe sport practices to Whitecaps FC by comparing current athlete safety policies and practices to industry standards and to recommend solutions that reflect their commitment to be a leader in this area,” shared Dina Bell-Laroche, Partner, Sport Law & Strategy Group. “We feel that our depth of knowledge and credibility as a trusted advisor will create the right environment to support moving new safe sport initiatives into action.”
“I think that the move to bring in SLSG is a strong one,” said Andrea Neil, former Whitecaps FC and Canadian national team player. “Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett clearly want to make sure that the events of the past are not repeated and have the club grow in a healthy and positive direction. I think the commitment to having an outside group with SLSG’s expertise come in and give an honest evaluation is a great first step.”
The SLSG will review the Club’s Safe Sport Policies and Practices to ensure every community-based program across the country is meeting or exceeding requirements related to safe environments. This will include discipline and complaints relating to the expected behaviour of coaches and athletes. An important part of the process will include reviewing the current performance management of coaches including hiring and training processes through surveys, interviews, and review of documents.
In addition, the SLSG will examine the process employed by the Club in 2008 to manage the complaint brought forward at that time with respect to the women’s team. To do so, the SLSG will conduct interviews, and review relevant documents including, memos, letters, policies and procedures.
“We continue to be grateful to the brave women who came forward and shared their stories. This is a collective effort for all involved and we know we have the opportunity and responsibility to set the new standard for sports organizations to follow in years to come,” added Mallett.
Once the review of current policies and practices has been finalized, recommendations will be made regarding improvements and presented to the Club’s leadership. The SLSG anticipates finalizing the review by the end of August.
“In the interest of transparency, we will be sharing SLSG’s recommendations publicly as well as the action steps we will be taking to safeguard our commitment to maintaining a safe and supportive environment,” said Mallett.
- What was the process used in deciding to retain the SLSG as your consultant?
We reviewed the credentials and experience and interviewed several organizations that consult on athlete safety. The SLSG has provided similar services to several major Canadian sports organizations over the past 27 years and are recognized as leaders in turning safe sport into action. We have been actively working with a group of players connected to the matters in 2008, including Ciara McCormack, Eden Hingwing and Andrea Neil, and they also provided their perspective to the SLSG and support their appointment to lead this important review. Together, we believe the SLSG is the best choice to do the review, share their findings and make recommendations for improvement.
- How many other firms were considered?
We reviewed the qualifications and experience of several highly respected firms and experts and believe that SLSG is the best choice for this work. A group of women connected to the matters in 2008, including Ciara McCormack, Eden Hingwing and Andrea Neil, also provided their perspective to the SLSG and support their appointment to lead this important review.
- Who made the decision to retain SLSG?
Ownership and management of Whitecaps FC made the decision together after considering several firms and individuals. In addition, ownership consulted a group of players connected to the matters in 2008, including Ciara McCormack, Eden Hingwing and Andrea Neil, to provide their perspective to the SLSG during the selection process.
- Does SLSG have any prior connections with Whitecaps management or its owners?
No. The SLSG is a reputable firm with a long history working with large sports organizations at the national, provincial/ territorial, and community level. In recent years they have become leaders in safe sport and helping organizations move safe sport initiatives to action.
- Who is paying for the review by SLSG and how much is being paid?
Whitecaps FC are paying for the independent review which will be carried out according to leading practices. It is a substantial investment as part of our commitment to safe sport and to learn what improvements can be made so that we can be leaders in this area.
- If Whitecaps are paying, then how can we trust that the review and findings will be truly independent?
Whitecaps FC are following best practice by hiring an external and independent firm to perform this review. The SLSG has 27 years of experience working with some of the largest amateur sports organizations in Canada and has conducted dozens of similar reviews on behalf of sport. The primary lead on this project is a lawyer who has extensive knowledge and experience in conducting reviews and investigations dealing with abuse, harassment, bullying, and other misconduct. We have specifically asked that they conduct an independent review and trust that they will use the best possible methods to deliver a thorough review to help us learn from the past so that we can move forward with implementing a safer environment for all involved.
- What exactly is SLSG going to do?
SLSG will review our current policies and practices relating to athlete safety throughout our organization, including awareness programs for athletes, training and information programs for coaches and how athletes are encouraged to report misconduct on an anonymous basis. In addition, they will review how the 2008 complaint was handled, make recommendations for improvement and incorporate those recommendations into what we are doing today.
- Is this a reinvestigation of what occurred in 2008?
It is a review of how matters were handled by the organization in 2008. The subject of the complaints received at the time by Whitecaps FC and the CSA are currently before police. The purpose of this review is to see what we could have done better and incorporate any suggested changes as part of the recommendations to improve our commitment to safe sport going forward.
- Will those who were affected in 2008 be interviewed?
The SLSG has been given a green light to review all documents and to interview any person involved in 2008 which includes affected athletes. SLSG will be provided open access to the organization and any external individuals they deem appropriate to conduct this review to the best of their abilities.
- Will SLSG’s findings be made public?
Yes. We will make the findings and recommendations public.
- How long will this process take?
We anticipate that the review will begin immediately, and the work is expected to take approximately 3 months.
- Will you be doing media interviews to discuss this announcement?
Not at this time. It is important that the privacy of each individual involved in this process be respected and protected.
About Vancouver Whitecaps FC
The Vancouver Whitecaps FC purpose is to unite and inspire its communities. Whitecaps FC is one of the longest standing professional soccer clubs in North America, having originally been founded in 1974. Since 2011, the club has played in Major League Soccer (MLS), the top tier of professional soccer in the United States and Canada. Whitecaps FC are a fully integrated club, housing one of the most unique soccer development programs in North America, starting from grassroots and including professional development programs for both boys and girls, with a goal to provide a safe and welcoming environment so that all participants can thrive and achieve their potential. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com.
About the Sport Law and Strategy Group: The SLSG is the leader in helping sport organizations live up to their full potential by providing legal solutions, planning and governance services, event management and sponsorship consulting, executive coaching and communications advice to leaders and organizations in the Canadian sport system since 1992. The SLSG’s website includes hundreds of articles and blogs that deal with current issues affecting the management and governance of sport organizations. Of interest, the SLSG partnered with the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), the Coaching Association of Canada (CAC), and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) to publish a four-part blog series on harassment in sport which includes the SLSG’s nine recommendations for eradicating harassment in sport organizations. For more information on the SLSG, visit sportlaw.ca.
Athletes and other individuals who have information related to the review may confidentially connect with the SLSG at firstname.lastname@example.org.