VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Many Vancouver Whitecaps supporters have been grappling with controversies at the soccer club and whether or not they should think twice about pulling on that jersey.
Since accusations surfaced earlier this year about abuse in the women’s program 11 years ago there have been supporter group walkouts and threats from season ticket holders to not renew their seats. Earlier this week, the club finally apologized to former players who have experienced pain and suffering, but is it enough for fans?
Scott Misfeldt is a longtime Whitecaps supporter — an involved Southsider and season ticket holder — who has a child who’s played in the team’s development program.
“The club is making itself very difficult to support,” he tells NEWS 1130. “I think the apology is a great start but very late in coming. I hope the women involved get a proper apology personally and some closure.”
Misfeldt feels the bigger issue — one that has been pushed aside — is how the coach facing abuse accusations was able to be hired in the community so soon after parting ways with the Whitecaps and the women’s national team.
“How can we keep all kids in all sports safe? We need to re-examine the streamline pyramid for women’s soccer. Why is the national team getting of scot-free in all this?”
Misfeldt also has concerns about the controversy surrounding another Whitecaps youth coach who has been accused of racist behaviour prior to his involvement with the club.
“I’m just really torn. I don’t want to be political or calling for heads as a supporter, I just want to go and enjoy the game. But something is not right with how they do things. It doesn’t feel right or smell right.”
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SFU Marketing expert Lindsay Meredith says the Vancouver Whitecaps have worked very hard to build a strong, family-oriented brand within the community and, he believes, the organization lost a lot of goodwill by taking as long as it did to apologize and acknowledge any harm.
“It’s kind of like a forest fire. If you’re sitting there watching it burn, that’s okay,” he tells NEWS 1130. “Sometime little fires go out but sometimes they turn into big fires and you have a mess on your hands. It strikes me as very much the problem they have walked into now.”
Meredith says the Whitecaps cater to families and have nurtured their brand carefully. “We know what the target market is. If you want that, you need to be clean and that better exclude issues of sexual abuse and that sort.”
RELATED: Fans say Whitecaps apology ‘too late’; Club continues to face criticism after abuse allegations
Meanwhile, as a Whitecaps supporter, Misfeldt says he loves the jersey but he doesn’t want to spend any money with the MLS club right now.
It remains to be seen if his compatriots feel the same way after the club’s apology.
The next home game for the MLS team is Friday, May 10 versus the Portland Timbers.
The Cascadian rivals usually draw a huge crowd, proudly sporting team colours.
-With files from Taran Parmar