VANCOUVER – A soccer club on northern Vancouver Island has red carded a 14-year-old girl, barring her from playing on an elite team in a dispute about a sponsorship deal with a salmon-farming company.
The Upper Island Riptide club announced Thursday it could not reconcile its differences with Freyja Reed and, as a result, had “parted ways” with the teen goalkeeper.
Freyja and her mother Anissa Reed, who live in Comox, B.C., oppose open net-pen salmon farming and have been at odds with the club over a sponsorship deal announced in August with Marine Harvest Canada, one of the world’s largest salmon-farming companies.
Riptide spokesman Sean Arbour said there was a “hiccup” with the Reeds over the club’s code of conduct and the mother and daughter had been previously warned.
“I wish there was a manual that they gave you when you started volunteering that, ‘hey, you might need to deal with this one day,’ but there isn’t,” he said.
A club news release said the decision was “collective” and based on feedback from players, families and volunteers.
Anissa Reed said she was outraged, noting she was informed by email around the same time the news release was issued.
“They issued a press release prior to allowing me to tell her, when she’s at school,” she said.
Marine Harvest spokesman Ian Roberts declined to comment on the decision.
Commercial fishermen gathered on Thursday at the Comox fisherman’s wharf in support of the teen.
The United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, numerous seafood companies and individual fishermen said they would present the girl with a trust fund so she could continue to play soccer without any sponsorship issues.
Willie Mitchell, a salmon-farming opponent and member of the NHL’s Florida Panthers, offered to sponsor the team himself in a Tuesday tweet.
Reed said she and Freyja moved to Comox so her daughter could play competitive soccer but learned about the sponsorship deal in August, months after tryouts for the under-15 team.
Reed said she set up a Facebook page, questioning the sponsorship deal, and discussed her concerns with the club’s steering committee.
A Sept. 14 email summarizes those talks from the club’s point of view.
Arbour said Reed would have to remove social media posts linking the company and club and that she and Freyja could not engage in “sideline chatter” about the company at games, training sessions and events.
Arbour said Freyja, in part, would not have to wear corporate logos or participate in fundraisers using company products. He called the email “strike 1” for the Reeds.
Reed said she feared Freyja wouldn’t be allowed to talk to teammates about staying out of team photos bearing the company’s logo, so she approached a friend at the University of British Columbia, after which the story broke in the media.
Arbour said the teen can still play soccer in Comox and or with a similar program in Nanaimo, which is 114 kilometres to the south, but if the behaviour continues she can be “terminated” from participating in any soccer north of the town of Ladysmith up to Campbell River.
“It never occurred to me that it was going to be such a contentious issue,” he said.
Reed said she is going to move as soon as possible, even though her business is struggling and she expects to take a big financial hit.
“I am dedicated to my daughter,” she said. “It’s just her and me, and I wanted her to succeed in soccer because that’s where her heart is, that’s all she wanted to do. She just wanted to play soccer without having to play for Marine Harvest.”
WEIGH IN: What do you think of the soccer club’s decision?