Whitecaps fans hold walkout to protest club’s response to abuse allegations

Vancouver Whitecaps fans have planned a protest at Wednesday's match at BC Place. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Members of two Vancouver Whitecaps supporter groups walked out of Wednesday night’s match at BC Place to protest the club’s handling of accusations against a former women’s team coach.

Allegations of abuse by the former coach of the Whitecaps women’s team and Canada’s women’s under-20 national team were brought forward by former player Ciara McCormack in a blog post published in February.

In the post, McCormack said Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps did not adequately address or investigate her concerns.

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Alleged sexual assault at Whitecaps residency program

Following the publication of the blog post, a Surrey-based soccer club associated with the coach said a coach had been suspended.

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More allegations came out in a statement issued on April 1 from a group of players of Canada’s under-20 women’s national team from 2008.

The claims include that the coach touched one of the players inappropriately, sent at least one text message that was sexual in nature, and held a private meeting with one of the players in his hotel room.

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Andrea Neil, one of Canada’s most decorated soccer stars, issued a statement saying she began hearing “rumours and stories” about trouble within the 2008 U20 squad shortly after her time with the national team ended.

At the same time, the coach was also associated with the Whitecaps.

Southsiders spokesperson Paul Sabourin-Hertzog said members of the supporters group — along with another group, the Curva Collective — planned to walk out at the 35-minute mark of the Caps’ match against LAFC and head to the stadium concourse.

Social media posts show fans gathering on the concourse during the match.

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Sabourin-Hertzog said the group planned the protest after meeting with former women’s team players.

“We wanted to show our solidarity with them as former Canadian women’s national team players and Whitecaps women’s players,” he said. “And we also want to hold the Whitecaps executives — who were in charge at the time through to the present day — accountable for the results of their actions.”

The Whitecaps issued a statement hours ahead of Wednesday’s match.

“In light of the specific details contained in a blog dated April 1, 2019, we were concerned there may be new information related to this matter that did not come forward in 2008 or since. Therefore, we immediately contacted the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to ensure they were aware of the blog and could assess if further action or review is required.

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The team went on to say it is in “active communication with the VPD” and is “initiating an independent third-party review of its respectful workplace policies procedures”

“As the matter is now with the authorities we encourage anyone with information that may be helpful to reach out to VPD directly,” the team said.

On Wednesday, Vancouver police said their “special investigation unit is well aware of the circumstances laid out in the blog.”

— With files from Robyn Crawford

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