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'A positive step': Former Whitecaps players meet with club owners amid abuse claims

Last Updated May 27, 2019 at 11:36 am PDT

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

Former members of the Whitecaps women's team say they've had a positive meeting with club owners

This comes months after abuse allegations were brought forward against a former coach

The Whitecaps have brought in a third party to conduct a review of current and past policies and procedures

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Calling it a step in the right direction, members of the former Whitecaps women’s team who came forward with abuse allegations against a former coach say they have had a positive meeting with the club’s owners.

Since February, more than a dozen former members of the women’s team have shared their stories, claiming a coach who oversaw that club and the U-20 women’s national team in 2008 put them in vulnerable situations.

Former player Ciara McCormack says the owners have allowed the players to have input into an investigation that looks at what happened more than a decade ago with that coach.

“They are going to do an investigation, and they’ve allowed us to see the scope of it and also that the people that are going to do the investigation, so I think that that’s a positive step that we’re going to be involved, just in terms of looking at what happened in 2008 and then also looking at their policies moving forward,” she says.

McCormack admits there’s still more that needs to be discussed, including any possible compensation.

“We haven’t exactly ironed it out, but I think that, in terms of, nothing financial but more just making sure that everybody that was affected by this is taken care of, I think, is definitely something that was spoken about but nothing concrete was hammered out.”

That includes discussions around therapy for those who need it.

Supporters groups have been leading walk-outs during Whitecaps home games, and McCormack is thanking all fans and members of the public who have shown support for the players in recent months.

The club has been under fire since accusations surfaced in February about possible abuse in the Whitecaps women’s program 11 years ago.

McCormack says it’s “crazy” that it’s taken so long to get to this point.

“But it was just a basic acknowledgement, I think, of what we went through and the role that the organization plays,” she explains. “Obviously, we would love to have more transparency around what happened in 2008, even just for us to understand if there was willful disregard of our health and safety and the fact that the coach is allowed back into the community, sort of unscathed, and was allowed to carry on.”

“I think, at the end of the day for us, it’s about moving forward in a positive way, and just having the opportunity to speak with the people that are in charge and are decision makers and feel like there was a dialogue that I think is going to continue,” McCormack adds.

Whitecaps bring in third party for review

The Whitecaps have announced the Sport Law & Strategy Group has been brought in to be the independent third party to conduct the club’s review of current and past policies. The club announced this review weeks ago.

In a statement posted to the website, the Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallet says the team’s “primary objective throughout the club is to provide a safe and supportive environment for athletes to practice, learn, compete, and achieve their best.”

“Our commitment to athlete safety is at the heart of what we do,” Mallet adds. “By engaging the Sport Law & Strategy Group to do this important work, we welcome experienced insights, best practices, and recommended deliverables to ensure we are recognized as a leader in safe sport practices throughout Canada.”

The club says it informed Vancouver Police of the claims when they came to light in McCormack’s blog post back in February.

In addition to looking at current and past policies and procedures, SLSG will also look into the process that was in place to deal with the complaint brought forward in 2008.