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.