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Fans say Whitecaps apology 'too late'; Club continues to face criticism after abuse allegations

Last Updated May 2, 2019 at 5:35 am PDT

FILE: Vancouver Whitecaps during their warm-up in BC Place in August, 2016. (Kayla Butler, NEWS 1130 Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Whitecaps are still facing a torrent of criticism from supporters after the club finally used the word “sorry” for the first time since former women’s team players came forward with abuse accusations.

Many say it’s too little, too late.

“I think this team went so far and was quiet for so long, there will be a large group of supporters that I don’t know if they will be happy until maybe they see someone removed from positions that they were in when this occurred,” Sportsnet 650‘s Perry Solkowski, who covered the team closely for years, said.

The Major League Soccer club released a statement on Wednesday, signed by co-owners Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallett, expressing “sincere regret and empathy” for the pain and suffering experienced by women in its program more than a decade ago.

Ciara McCormack played for the team during three stints (2002, 2005-06 and 2011) and says she witnessed a number of problematic situations during her second and third periods with the squad, and she’s outlined her concerns in detail in a 7,000 word blog post.

According to the club, staff launched an investigation back in 2008 into a “serious allegation” against the women’s team coach. Following the investigation, the club says it “terminated the relationship with the coach and adopted an extensive workplace policy.”

However, it took a full month before the sudden change in tone for the Whitecaps, during which there were walkouts from supporter groups and threats from some season ticket holders to walk away unless the club addressed the accusations in a more meaningful way.

“I just don’t understand why it took the Whitecaps this long to understand the perception of why the public in the climate of society now to kind of bury their head and say, ‘Well I thought we did the right thing,'” Solkowski added.

He said he’s spoken to some fans who have even admitted they were a little hesitant to put on their Whitecaps gear and support the team.

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Solkowski noted this isn’t just about fan support.

“I think what we may see is in the stands, it will be visible to see how much support they have, but, it’s in the boardroom. Will we see sponsor slowly moving away from this club? Because that’s really going to hurt them the most.”

On social media, the team is being ripped with comment after comment suggesting even this latest response is weak, dodgy and took more than 10 years to write.

Some are calling for president Bob Lenarduzzi’s head — others adding the effort is too little, too late.

“I think that’s the name, the one fans associate with this whole mess,” Solkowski said.