Some former Whitecaps women’s team players met with team ownership last week about how the club handled allegations of misconduct by a coach over a decade agoCiara McCormack said she had lost her faith in humanity.But after seeing Whitecaps fans’ repeated protests lead to a meeting with Whitecaps ownership, she says her faith is restored.On Monday morning, McCormack was able to reveal news she said she was elated to share: A week ago Monday, she and three of her teammates met with Whitecaps owners Greg Kerfoot and Jeff Mallet and were able to share long-held concerns and frustrations over the club’s handling of allegations of misconduct made by players on the women’s team in 2008 against a former coach.Shortly after McCormack shared her news, the Whitecaps announced that the club has hired Toronto-based Sport Law & Strategy Group to conduct an independent review of the club’s current and past safe sport policies and procedures and how they have been implemented.The May 20 meeting between players and owners came after months of public criticism, first launched by a blog post McCormack wrote in February in which she accused the Whitecaps of organizational malfeasance.A wave of criticism followed that post, with former teammates, including Canadian Sports Hall of Famer Andrea Neil, speaking out, as well as Whitecaps supporters who staged walkouts at three games this season to raise public awareness about the situation and to express their frustrations over how ownership and the club’s executive had handled the situation.“With everyone stepping up, this is why the meeting happened,” McCormack said. “We would have hit an impasse if people hadn’t stepped up.”“It was amazing to see, all these people who I’d never met saying they believed me,” she said of the fan walkouts. “It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Definitely restored my faith in humanity.”
Ciara McCormack, who was part of the Whitecaps’ organization a decade ago, would go on to play in Australia for the Newcastle Jets in 2014 (above).
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McCormack said the meeting was “tough and emotional,” but also said she believed they were productive and was pleased about who had been hired to conduct the review. She was also pleased by the response from Kerfoot and Mallett.“Most importantly, for the first time in 12 years since this situation started, I felt heard by people in a position of power who seemed to have a genuine desire to do something, and for that I am incredibly grateful,” she said in her blog post.Kerfoot and Mallett had said in an open letter on May 1 that they were launching this review process.“Our primary objective throughout the club is to provide a safe and supportive environment for athletes to practise, learn, compete, and achieve their best,” Mallett said in a statement Monday about hiring SLSG. “Our commitment to athlete safety is at the heart of what we do.“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.”Eden Hingwing, one of the other players who attended the meeting and who played for both the Whitecaps women’s team and the Canadian Under-20 team, said she supported the choice of SLSG.“I am supportive of their appointment to conduct the review and believe it is the right way to move forward with efforts to create a safer sport environment for soccer players in Vancouver,” she said in a statement.SLSG has been operating for 27 years and in that time has worked with hundreds of organizations across Canada in developing leadership and promoting safe-sport policies.“We are very excited about bringing our deep knowledge of sport and best safe sport practices to Whitecaps FC by comparing current athlete safety policies and practices to industry standards and to recommend solutions that reflect their commitment to be a leader in this area,” Dina Bell-Laroche, a partner at SLSG, said in a statement.According to the Whitecaps, the review will look at how the club handled the complaint made by the players in 2008 about the conduct of their coach and will also look at every community-based program run by the club across the country and their policies surrounding discipline and complaints involving players and coaches as well as the hiring and training of coaches.The process will include interviews and reviewing relevant documents.“We continue to be grateful to the brave women who came forward and shared their stories. This is a collective effort for all involved and we know we have the opportunity and responsibility to set the new standard for sports organizations to follow in years to come,” Mallett said.The review process is expected to be finalized by the end of August and then recommendations will be made. The club will then share SLSG’s recommendations publicly, Mallett email@example.com/risingaction CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.