An independent review of how the Vancouver Whitecaps handled allegations of harassment and abuse by a former coach – who went on to coach with South Surrey-based Coastal FC – has concluded, and determined that the organization needs to improve its communication efforts and handling of complaints.
A 32-page report from Toronto’s Sport Law & Strategy Group identified “a lack of effective communication with the players” a decade ago, when the abuses are alleged to have taken place.
The allegations stem from February complaints brought to light online by former players of the 2008 Whitecaps women’s team and Canada’s national U20 women’s team – namely, a blog post written by former player Ciara McCormack.
McCormack said that after making complaints in 2007 and ’08, neither Canada Soccer nor the Whitecaps adequately addressed or investigated her concerns. More than a dozen former players followed, alleging they witnessed or experienced abuse or bullying from the coach. who was fired by the ‘Caps and national program in 2008.
Most recently, the coach had been coaching a high-level girls team with Coastal FC.
The coach was suspended by Coastal in February.
Reached Thursday morning, Coastal FC executive director Chris Murphy told Peace Arch News “nothing has changed in our position,” with regards to the suspension.
Many of the players involved have named the coach in question – as have other media, subsequently – though PAN’s policy is to not name individuals until formal charges are laid.
Throughout the last 10 months, McCormack has continued to be critical of the Whitecaps – writing on Twitter that a May apology from team owners had “no sincerity, no accountability… Not even close 2 good enough.”
Wednesday’s report notes that many of the recommendations as to what the club could or should have done differently at the time “have already been addressed are are reflected in current policies and practices.”
“I look at it as just one piece of a continued building block for not only us as a club at the Whitecaps to improve and be better, but also as hopefully a calling card,” said Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett.
“As we make this public to everybody, which was our promise to the women who brought these issues forward, we’re hoping this can be something we can all learn from and use to focus on safe sport because as you know, there’s lots of room for improvement across Canada both at the youth and professional level on safe sport.”
McCormack said she was pleased that there is more awareness about the issues, but felt the review was loaded with “corporate-speak” and short on substance.
“I would say that it basically glosses over the situations and paints the Whitecaps in a favourable light,” she said.
“It was more just for them to follow through with what they said they were going to do,” she said. “I thought that was really important for them to do. But in terms of content or anything like that, I wasn’t expecting to have my mind blown at all. And I wasn’t.”
– with files from The Canadian Press