“The focus is on safety first.”
Those are the words of Whitecaps FC CEO Mark Pannes during his appearance on Friday with Halford & Brough on TSN 1040 Radio.
Pannes' appearance comes one day after Major League Soccer announced it would be suspending the season for at least 30 days amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Something so big like this I say it often happens slowly, slowly, slowly and then suddenly and that’s how it played out so far,” says Pannes.
“Yesterday morning at 6:30, it was steady as she goes, we had a game in two days. At 7:30, it was full stop.”
Pannes says the communication needs to be clear with fans.
“You start thinking about how do we communicate with fans and how do we tell them stuff that’s not inaccurate. Because that’s the biggest thing right now, how can we only deal with accurate information.”
In regard to information for the fans, Pannes says the league is still planning on playing a full season.
“Accurate information for the fans is that we’re fully planning, at a league-wide level, on playing a full 34-match amended schedule when we come back. I think you’ll see more mid-week games of course because those will be the dates that will be available.”
When the season starts back up, Pannes says every ticket already purchased will be honoured.
“We’ll reschedule every game. Every ticket will be honoured. We’ll work with everybody as we have in the past and try to make sure everybody’s whole.”
Pannes says the Whitecaps FC organization has taken many steps in the past days to combat the spread of the virus.
“The latest is to focus on safety first. If you take everyone not on the first team - and we have probably the biggest academy system for a single team if you look at geographic spread across the country of any club in the world actually. We have 31 academies with 22,000 kids playing so that’s all shut down. All of our elite players in the lower mainland, that’s all shut down. Camps are postponed. So it’s about ‘can you communicate to everybody what you’re doing’.”
Overall, Pannes says “we can just tell our fans, as always, we’re going to take care of them.”