Wednesday, December 18, 2019
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.
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.
At Whitecaps FC providing a safe and supportive environment for athletes to practice, learn, compete, and achieve their best is one of our primary objectives. We are committed to creating and maintaining an equitable, and non-discriminatory environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity.
Speak Up and Ask for Help
We encourage all of our players and/or parents to speak up if they feel there is an issue or if something doesn’t seem right. If there is an immediate threat or danger, please call 911 right away. Here are the ways you can report an issue:
- Speak with your coach (if appropriate)
- Report your concerns through an independent third-party system. This service can be accessed on a completely anonymous and confidential basis in two ways:
- Phone: Ethics Hotline: 1-866-921-6714 (please reference Vancouver Whitecaps FC when calling)
- Online: Ethics Reporting Web Portal
- Contact Whitecaps FC Head of Human Resources
Phone: 604-669-9283. Ext. 2285
Code of Conduct
Our Code of Conduct establishes principles for team officials, players, parents, guardians and spectators to ensure soccer is a fun, safe, and positive experience for all. It is a condition that all participants read and agree to abide by the Code of Conduct at all times. Failure to comply with them will result in action from Whitecaps FC.
- Respect everyone and everything
- Leave things better off then you found them
- Do the best you can
As a Player I will:
- Do my best
- Respect and play by the rules of the game.
- Be prepared to the best of my ability for training and matches equally.
- Promise to be a team player and encourage my fellow teammates to do the same.
- Ensure that I arrive on time to all training sessions and games.
- Wear the assigned club attire for all training and matches with pride.
- Listen to and follow instructions and decisions of coaching staff.
- Always hold respect for opponents, coaches, referees and teammates.
- Not engage in unsportsmanlike conduct or negative communication with players, coaching staff or families of the opposing team.
- Never use profanity, display temper tantrums, violent behaviour, or engage in harassment or bullying of any kind.
- Not engage in negative comments towards players or teams through any social media platforms.
- Immediately report any injury to coaching staff.
Parents and Guardians
As a parent / guardian / spectator I will:
- Set a positive example for my kids by maintaining a positive attitude and promoting fair play at all times.
- Help my kids understand their role and the importance of their contribution to the team by highlighting their progress instead on focusing on results.
- Not engage in unsportsmanlike conduct or negative communication with players, coaching staff or families of the opposing team.
- Not publicly question the coaches or manager’s judgment or question their integrity.
- Never criticize game officials and always respect the decisions they make.
- Not discriminate, harass, or bully any team official, player, or spectator.
- Not engage in offensive or abusive language or behaviour, or physical threats.
- Communicate privately with the coach if you have questions, concerns, or suggestions.
- Remain outside the field of play and within the Designated Spectator Area (where provided)
- Refrain from yelling or coaching from the sidelines during training sessions or games.
- Ensure punctual arrival and always inform my coach if I will be late or absent.
- Inform the coach of any injury or health problem.
As a coach I will:
- Adhere to and promote the Code of Conduct to players, parents and spectators alike.
- Consistently display the highest standards of behavior, and be a positive role model.
- Respect the rights, dignity and worth of each and every person regardless of gender, place of origin, colour, sexual orientation, religion, political belief or economic status.
- Teach players and parents to act fairly and respect the rules, referees and opponents
- Encourage each player to accept responsibility for their own behaviour and performance
- Show zero tolerance for offensive language, behaviour or any form of bullying.
- Never engage in public criticism of anyone in any situation on or off the field.
- Communicate openly to ensure all expectations and feedback are understood
- Place well-being and safety above all other considerations, including performance and results.
- Abstain from the use of any alcohol, tobacco or drugs while in the presence of athletes
- Never exert undue influence to obtain personal benefit or reward.
- Ensure activities are appropriate for the age, maturity, experience and ability of players.
- Ensure players, staff, spectators respect the field boundaries for training and match play.
- Co-operate fully with other specialists (e.g. other coaches, officials, sports scientists, doctors, physiotherapists) in the best interests of the player.
- Make sure that equipment/facilities are safe and in good standing.
- Inform parents of any injuries their child might have suffered without delay.
Air Quality Policy
Whitecaps FC is committed to ensuring a safe environment for your children above all else. In the event of an air quality advisory, Whitecaps FC uses the Government of Canada’s Observed Air Quality Index and Air Quality Guidelines as its two primary resources for making informed decisions around any changes, rescheduling or reduction of its camp programs. As conditions change, the club and its staff will always make decisions in the best interest of the players, parents, and staff, and whenever possible, commit to running the camp as scheduled.
Air Quality Rating: 7-10+ (High)
- Sessions may be rescheduled to a future date, or when possible, moved indoors. Additional time may be added to any remaining days of the camp to make up any missed sessions.
- If a camp day has already begun, the camp will continue as scheduled but the program will move to low impact activities with high exertion or strenuous activities reduced to a safe level.
- Players will be given longer rest and water breaks throughout the session, and those with pre-existing health conditions (as indicated under the section “Comments/Medical concerns” on their registration form) will be monitored closely.
- Players may choose not to participate in camp activities or withdraw voluntarily.
Air Quality Rating: 4-6 (Moderate to Low)
- Camps will run normally.
- Players with pre-existing health conditions or those with health concerns will be given additional rest or water breaks as required.
- Activities may be adjusted for younger players & those with pre-existing health conditions.
Before a camp day:
- Check your email. In the event of a change due to air quality, the email address on file will be emailed at least 1-hour prior to the start of a camp day with any changes.
- If a session needs to be rescheduled, participants will be notified by email of the new date and/or time as soon as it has been finalized. Every effort will be made to keep the rescheduled session within the existing camp week.
During a camp day:
- Should the air quality deteriorate after a camp day has begun, camps will run as scheduled with reduced activities. Parents will be notified by email if activities are changed.
- Every effort will be made to first reschedule any sessions that are affected by an air quality advisory.
- Sessions that have been successfully rescheduled, or fulfilled by adding additional time to a camp, will be non-refundable.
- Parents with concerns may withdraw their children at any point, however, any programming missed as a result of voluntarily withdrawal is non-refundable.
- Refunds/Credits will be issued on a per-session basis only under circumstances where Whitecaps FC has formally cancelled sessions and those sessions cannot be reasonably rescheduled.