The Vancouver Whitecaps have put out a statement – this time, an apology from the team’s owners – regarding the handling of allegations of abuse against a former coach.
The allegations stem from complaints recently brought to light online by former players of the 2008 Whitecaps women’s team and Canada’s national U20 women’s team.
“As we reflect on what happened in 2008 and the blogs that have been published over the last several weeks, we express sincere regret and empathy for the harm that has clearly come to many women who participated in our program at that time,” reads a statement signed by Whitecaps co-owners Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett.
The coach left both the ‘Caps and the national program a decade ago, and most recently had been coaching a youth girls team with South Surrey-based Coastal FC. When the allegations were made in February, Coastal suspended the coach.
Multiple times since then, the youth soccer association has told Black Press Media that executive members did not have knowledge of the allegations prior to the coach joining the club.
Wednesday’s statement was the third from the Major League Soccer team this month. Prior statements from the club were criticized for not expressing remorse or, in the words of the Southsiders – one of the team’s supporter groups – not “effectively addressing the requests made by the former U20 players.
The Southsiders led a walkout at BC Place during a game earlier this month.
The newest statement also offered an apology to those affected.
“The pain and suffering these women feel is real and something we care deeply about. And while we sought and acted on the advice of the best available counsel at the time, it is clear that people were deeply affected. For that we are sorry,” it reads.
Earlier this month – as part of the team’s second statement on the matter – the Whitecaps announced that they had reported the claims to the Vancouver Police Department. Later that day, the VPD confirmed to Black Press Media that they had been made aware of the situation.
The team also announced it “will conduct a thorough and independent review of our operations to ensure that we foster and enforce a culture of zero tolerance for any form of harassment or bullying.”
Many of the players involved have named the coach in question – as have other media, subsequently – though Black Press Media’s policy is to not name individuals until formal charges are laid.
Also on Wednesday, after the statement was released, the team held an invite-only press conference with Mallett that excluded many media outlets.
At the conference, Mallett told Canadian Press he’s been troubled for several weeks by the the decade-old allegations.
“We don’t like it. We’ve been losing sleep, too,” he said. “So I feel badly, especially for the women who’ve been impacted by this.”
The organization also announced that it will do an independent review of the actions taken in 2008 and make the results public.
“If the truth comes out and it’s not what we thought it was, then we’ll take action,” Mallett said.
All of the allegations will also be reviewed, he added.
Asked whether changes need to be made to the club’s front office, Mallett said he didn’t anticipate any switch ups.
”Nothing’s ruled out at this point. But looking at this issue, I don’t see that as a necessary element at this point,” he said.
Former player Ciara McCormack – the writer of the original blog post back in February – wrote on Twitter that the newest statement contained “no sincerity, no accountability + many, many unanswered questions remain.”
“Not even close 2 good enough,” she wrote.
– with files from Canadian Press