Vancouver Whitecaps FC released on Wednesday the report dated December 13, 2019 from the independent review conducted by the Sport Law & Strategy Group (SLSG) of the club’s past and current safe sport policies and procedures, and the actions taken by Whitecaps FC in response to incidents that occurred in 2008. In addition, two other historical matters were reviewed and are addressed in the report.
To read the SLSG report in full, click HERE.
The SLSG conducted extensive interviews and stakeholder engagement with over 350 former and current players, parents, staff, coaches and other interested stakeholders, and examined relevant documents including memos, letters, policies and procedures. Among the key findings, the SLSG report states:
- Since 2008, the Whitecaps have continued to improve their policies and practices particularly as they relate to safe sport. Many of the Whitecaps current policies and procedures for safe sport meet current leading practices in the sector.
- The Whitecaps current human resources procedures meet expected standards.
- The SLSG did not find that the Whitecaps were attempting to “cover up” the 2008 incidents or “sweep the incidents under the rug.”
- The Whitecaps managed the inappropriate text communication that was brought to their attention in May 2008 prudently and reasonably.
- The SLSG identified that in 2008 there was a lack of effective communication with the players and noted that it was this lack of communication that resulted in frustration, mistrust and speculation which has contributed to the lingering animosity still held by some former players today.
- The Whitecaps were criticized by some players for not taking steps to ensure that the coach was prohibited from coaching in the future. It was determined that the Whitecaps did not have the authority and jurisdiction to prohibit anyone from coaching in other soccer programs.
Numerous recommendations were made by the SLSG to advance the Whitecaps FC efforts in safe sport and are cited in Section VIII of the report. This includes recommendations received from the stakeholders who participated in the review. All of the players interviewed were asked to provide their own recommendations for what improvements, solutions, or changes they would like to see Whitecaps FC adopt going forward. Their suggestions were also incorporated into the recommendations.
The anonymous player from 2008 who participated in the initial process to approve the SLSG to carry out the review offered, “I have had the opportunity to review the report in its entirety and found it to be very thorough. I am satisfied with the approach the SLSG took by engaging athletes and the community and with the overall findings. I want to ensure current and future athletes have a safe, healthy experience and I believe the recommendations in this report will support that.”
“We again express our sincere regret and empathy to the brave women who came forward to share their experiences, and to all who were affected,” said Whitecaps FC co-owner Jeff Mallett. “Athletes must be provided with an environment where they are safe, secure, and free from any form of bullying and harassment. We are grateful to the over 350 athletes, community members, parents, supporters, and staff who engaged in this review. This process has sharpened our focus on the importance of addressing the issues faced across all sport environments.”
Added Mallett, “It’s reassuring to have the SLSG affirm that many of our practices meet leading standards. Nevertheless, we also recognize through their recommendations that there is much more we can do. Not only are we committed to adopting the recommendations in this report, but we’ve also started dialogue with key organizations to see how we can help further advance safe sport.”
“We welcomed the opportunity to conduct this review on safe sport practices and would like to acknowledge the many stakeholders who participated in the process,” shared Dina Bell-Laroche, Partner, Sport Law & Strategy Group. “We hope that the recommendations provide the Whitecaps with additional measures to advance their leadership in this area.”
Whitecaps ownership and executives have reviewed the SLSG report and prepared the following questions and answers:
1. When did you receive the report?
We received the final report from the SLSG on Friday, December 13.
2. Why did the review take longer than expected?
The priority was to provide the SLSG the necessary time to conduct their work thoroughly and independently. We acknowledge that the review process took longer than originally anticipated. Through this process the SLSG engaged over 350 stakeholders including former and current player, parents, staff, coaches and other interested parties.
3. How was the SLSG chosen as the independent third party?
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 actions. Additionally, we worked with a group of four former players connected to the matters in 2008 on the selection. We concluded that the SLSG was the best choice to conduct the independent review, share their findings and make recommendations.
4. What actions are you taking as a result of the report’s findings?
This process has sharpened our focus on the importance of addressing the issues faced across all sport environments. Not only are we committed to adopting the recommendations in this report, but we’ve also started dialogue with key organizations working in this space to see how we can help further advance safe sport.
5. When can we expect to see these recommendations implemented?
We will be working as expeditiously as possible to implement the recommendations effectively. Our Human Resources department will be putting together a task force to lead the implementation of the recommendations and will prioritize the most pressing ones. The Safe Sport page on whitecapsfc.com will continue to house the latest information on the club’s initiatives in this space.
6. Has there been communication with the four former players who were consulted prior to the review?
Yes, the four athletes who were invited to participate in the selection of the SLSG were made aware of the pending release of the report. One of those four players who wishes to remain anonymous offered, “I have had the opportunity to review the report in its entirety and found it to be very thorough. I am satisfied with the approach the SLSG took engaging athletes and the community and with the overall findings. I want to ensure current and future athletes have a safe, healthy experience and I believe the recommendations in this report will support that.”
We again thank these women for their bravery in coming forward and express our sincere regret and empathy to all those who were affected. We are truly sorry.
- whitecapsfc.com -
The SLSG is an independent third party that was created in 1992 and has been offering legal and risk management services and leadership development to hundreds of sport organizations across Canada, from community-based to national-level programing.
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, 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.