VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi has been demoted, following a year of turmoil and scandal for the club.
Lenarduzzi will take on the role of “club liaison” while the Whitecaps start the search for a Sporting Director to take over the duties previously held by the president. The new position is a commonplace role with many big soccer clubs around the world, and “will lead the technical direction of the club at all levels,” the Whitecaps said in a media release.
The president’s title is being eliminated.
“We are committed to taking the ‘Caps to the next level, to being championship contenders,” Whitecaps FC co-owner Jeff Mallett said in the statement. “We’ve invested heavily in our soccer operations, from facilities to coast-to-coast soccer programming for boys and girls. Bringing in a sporting director is the next step to take the club forward.”
More than a dozen former members of the women’s team claimed a coach who oversaw their club and the U-20 women’s national team in 2008 put them in vulnerable situations. The Whitecaps were widely criticized for not acknowledging the matter sooner or taking steps to address it. Dissent among supporters and season ticket holders included public walkouts during home games this season.
#BREAKING Bob Lenarduzzi no longer president of the Vancouver Whitecaps. He's taking on role as "club liaison." Club starting search for a Sporting Director. Listen for more @NEWS1130 throughout the day.
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) August 16, 2019
“Whitecaps FC would not be Whitecaps FC without Bob Lenarduzzi,” Mallett said. “His knowledge, relationships, and history with this club is unparalleled and will be invaluable as we enter our next chapter.”
As a player, coach, general manager, director of soccer operations, and president, Lenarduzzi has been involved with the Whitecaps for four decades.
“For me, I’m incredibly passionate about representing this club and brand here at home,” Lenarduzzi said in the statement. “With the league growing the way it is, now is the right time to inject new leadership into the soccer side of our organization.”
The team has called a news conference for later this afternoon.
‘They have to make some changes’
The decision to remove Lenarduzzi and eliminate the president role comes as no surprise to Sportsnet 650 Starting Lineup host Perry Solkowski, but he says it should have come a long time ago.
“I think Bob was the face of something because he wanted to be, but behind the scenes didn’t pull as many levers in the last three to four years as people away from organization assumed,” Solkowski said. “It’s easy to be the front man if everything is okay, and it has been okay for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but what has happened off the field and how they’ve played, it has been nothing but negativity and I don’t know if you want that role.”
He says the team may have made the decision now because it is season ticket renewal time.
“We never really knew who the boss of the Vancouver Whitecaps was. We assumed it was Bob Lenarduzzi. Now we know with the new appointment, that they will have a direct person who is in charge,” he said, adding it will take time for the team to reconnect with fans and demonstrate it is listening to them.
More to come.
-With files from Chris Wahl, Dean Recksiedler and Martin MacMahon