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, visit 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.”