A few days ago Larissa Cahute of the Province Newspaper wrote an article called, “Why Canada Sits So Low in the World Rankings,” focusing on former Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie’s recent essay on the lack of ability for private enterprise to flourish in soccer in BC.
In this article, Michael Findlay, the Director of Soccer Development for BC Soccer, was quoted as saying,
“I don’t think we are anti-private enterprise at all,” said Findlay. “We want anybody who’s involved with the game to work within a recognized system, deliver players and follow a recognized pathway that’s set out by the Canadian Soccer Association.”
To this statement, I will give a detailed account and timeline of my experience as a private enterprise running my Western Canada Soccer Showcase . I will let the reader decide for themselves if they agree with Findlay’s assertion.
The following is from detailed notes and emails that I have kept over the years. I think it gives pretty good insight into the culture, environment and power structure that is existent in BC Soccer currently, as a whole.
Western Canada Soccer Showcase (WCSS) Timeline of Events
2008 WCSS SHOWCASE:
▪ October, 2007: I see that there is a need for female players from Western Canada to have the ability to be connected with universities in a professionally run event, which to this point has not existed anywhere in Western Canada.
▪ Mid-October, 2007: I start emailing everyone I know that has elite female high school players to let them know about the event, including the Provincial Program. I highlight that we are not affiliated with any one group, thus illustrating to the players the mission of the event; that it doesn’t matter who you play for, we’re about connecting female players to good opportunities
▪ October 23, 2007 An email that I write to the U16 Provincial Team coach is forwarded to Michael Findlay, and I receive an email from him cc-ed to 5 other BC Soccer executives questioning us for doing the Showcase. Findlay attaches a player development pathway to the Canadian National Team, which for female players doesn’t include university soccer, an absurd notion to anyone involved remotely with women’s soccer.
▪ October 24, 2007 After spending an inordinate amount of time crafting a response to his lengthy email, and addressing that every single member of the women’s national team has gone through university soccer, thus it’s crucial and should be on their female development pathway, I receive an email back from Mr Findlay telling me that my email is too long to read and if I want to meet about it, I can come to the BC Soccer office Monday, October 29, 2007 at 1pm.
▪ October 29, 2007 At this meeting Michael Findlay and Mark Parker, another executive at the time of BC Soccer tape our conversation and say things such as “let’s be honest, no player outside of the Provincial Program would be good enough to get a scholarship to play in university.” I disagree with that assertion to them, tell them I’d like to do everything I can to work within their rules, and leave the meeting, continuing to work on the event.
▪ End of January, 2008 BC Soccer never tells us anything about the need for the event to be sanctioned, causing a massive panic a couple of months outside of the event when we realize this paperwork hasn’t been completed when a BC referee tells us that every event needs to be sanctioned in order to run properly.
▪ January 31, 2008 North Shore Girls Soccer Club who is helping back the event, back us in approaching BC Soccer and at the last minute, extremely stressfully, we get the paperwork in order, wondering why they never let us know about this in our meeting and subsequent conversations with them.
▪ March 21-23, 2008 The first event has 10 teams from BC, Alberta and one from England, with approximately 15 university coaches in attendance and is deemed a huge success.
▪ October 28-November 16, 2008 Nahiomy Ortiz, a player from Victoria that did not make the Provincial Team that year, is scouted by a US coach from Florida at the 2008 WCSS and connected with the U17 Colombian National Team, where she goes on to play at the 2008 U17 World Cup in New Zealand, helping her team to a 1-1 draw against Canada in the group stage. Her, along with a few other players not on the Provincial Team at the event, end up getting scholarships to US schools.
2009 WCSS SHOWCASE
▪ April 10-12, 2009 The Showcase goes off with little issue, and grows to 20 teams from 10 the first year.
▪ The Provincial Team programming however, is put on the same weekend, and players are told that they are not allowed attend the Showcase.
2010 WCSS SHOWCASE
▪ End of November 2009: The Whitecaps announce that for the first time they have decided to hold a college showcase, and do so 3 weeks outside of our event for 2010.
▪ Subsequently, teams that have signed up for our event begin contacting us, telling us that employees of BC Soccer are telling teams that our event is not sanctioned.
▪ The Provincial Team a month outside of the event, subsequently tells all of their players that they are mandated to attend their events on the weekend of the Showcase-many of whom were scheduled with their team to attend the Showcase
▪ March 4, 2010 We start receiving emails from various teams such as these:
From: Coach from Victoria <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Tournament question re: sanctioned Tournament
To: “girlsCAN Soccer Development” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, March 4, 2010, 10:27 AM
We have not heard back from BC Soccer. We are comfortable that the Tournament is sanctioned. It appears that there are some BC Soccer types during the NTC stirring the pot about whether your tournament was sanctioned (not sure why).
I see the schedule is out for the Tournament. Is there an ability to change games? We are slated to play (team name) and we will probably end up meeting these guys in the Coastal Cup semi-final. There has been great debate among the coaches as to whether this is good or bad.
March 21, 2010 Then we receive an email a couple of weeks later from another team saying this:
From: Coach from Lower Mainland <email@example.com>
Subject: WCSS 2010
To: “girlsCAN Soccer Development” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, March 21, 2010, 9:46am
I received a phone call this morning from Markus Reinkens advising that they (U16 Provincial Team) will not release our four players to participate in the showcase tournament.He said your tournament is not sanctioned by BC Soccer therefore the players are not insured if they are injured.We have a minor conflict for the April 2 11:30 AM game but none for the rest of the weekend, however, he says he still won’t release or allow the players to participate in your tournament.
Be advised I have no intentions of pulling out of your tournament and I am in the process of challenging this.Please advise your position in terms of insurance for the players.I am sure you have taken care of this.
I had a very lengthy and pointed discussion this morning and expect follow up calls to take place.I require your assistance in clarifying the insurance issue.
Coach Phone Number
I know how busy you are perhaps discussing this on the phone would be better.
As for my scholarship nominee the delay is the result of this player being one of those four that may not be able to play.
March 23, 2010
We responded to this situation by sending an email to BC Soccer as follows:
From: girlsCAN Soccer Development <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Tournament question re: sanctioned Tournament
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: “Lina Peragine” <email@example.com>, District Representative
Date: Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 11:56 AM
Please give us a phone number of someone that can be reached today, that will explain why this misinformation continues to be spread and why players, just days before the tournament, are being told that they are not allowed to attend (and why many of them were allowed to play in the Whitecaps Showcase less than a month ago?) The players deserve the opportunity to Showcase themselves to the many schools that will be in attendance, and have a chance to secure a lasting opportunity for their academic and athletic future. Prevention of this kind of opportunity is only selfish and short sighted on behalf of an organization that supposedly supports the growth of soccer in BC, and is the kind of behaviour that is holding back soccer in this country. As players still ourselves who have benefitted from the opportunity to have our university paid for and go on to international and professional careers because of it, this is something that we will not stand for.
The Organizing Committee, Western Canada Soccer Showcase
April 2-4, 2010 The 2010 event of the Showcase runs again very well, and is well-received as we hit 24 teams despite for the first time competing with a Whitecaps event that is put in the same timeframe and a governing body that seemed to do everything in their power to derail our event and support the Whitecaps’.
2011 WCSS SHOWCASE
- January 4, 2011 We receive an email from Matt Holbrook, who was recently appointed as the “Member Services Coordinator” telling us that for the first time, we need to have the event signed off by the district that the event is being held in, instead of the district that we have always gone through that hosted the event the first year. The entire district board needs to sign off on it which creates a very stressful situation for us.
- January 5, 2011 We send Mr Holbrook an email that Michael Findlay signed off on in 2008 telling us when we asked the exact same question, that we didn’t need to go through this process, but Mr Holbrook insists that the rules state that we need to do this and we have to follow the protocol, complicating things for us.
- End of January, 2011 We go through this process and get the paperwork signed off on by this other district
- April 22-24, 2011 The 2011 Showcase again runs very well with top teams from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in attendance along with approximately 30 coaches from across North America.
- A handful of teams choose to attend both the Whitecaps and our event, allowing the players to be exposed to multiple schools in their own backyard at 2 separate events
- March, 2012 The HPL league starts for the first time, a league that is essentially under the Whitecaps banner and BC Soccer. Groups such as TSS are excluded, and it essentially shuts out teams from competing in high performance situations as only HPL teams are allowed to compete for the BC slot for Canadian Nationals.
- HPL teams choose to compete in the WCSS
- March 8, 2012 I am contacted by someone who also served as one of the people who organized the competing Whitecaps Showcase in the first place, interested in instead partnering with us and organizing a Showcase with him.
- March 8, 2012 In a phone call with him later that day, he cites a desire to get away from the climate of the Whitecaps and get back to the “integrity” that he started his career in soccer.
- March 8-10, 2012 Emails are exchanged back and forth, and we consider the offer as this person is within the system, and we feel that the event is being attacked every year and wonder if politically partnering with him will allow us the ability to survive. We send him an email that gives 10 points if we are to partner that covers us in every possible angle that he could take advantage of our event and our partnership could be taken advantage of, and he responds with an email that cites the need for there to be “trust” in a partnership questioning the need for the 10 points we have brought up. We realize we don’t have this necessary trust or desire for a partnership and we’d rather just risk the showcase being derailed politically, and the partnership doesn’t come to fruition.
- April 6-8, 2012 The Showcase again runs smoothly, with rave reviews from the teams that participate and the colleges that attend.
- April 12, 2012 At the end of the event, I receive an email from Matt Holbrook, from BC Soccer (mentioned under the 2011 Showcase), asking for rosters as the Victoria Highlanders and TSS Academy, 2 private academies participated in the event as there was a complaint by “member groups” that they had unregistered players at the event.
- This is the 13 page email exchange that occurs w this representative of BC Soccer: Holbrook Email
- It in an of itself shows a microcosm of what soccer in BC is for “private groups”. The bullying, the selective rule administration, the lack of neutrality by BC Soccer, and the overall harassment and utter waste of energy that these groups have to endure.
- Highlights in the email chain include the fact that we find out from the District Head that would have had to sign off on the Whitecaps Boys Showcase and Whitecaps Easter Cup, a few weeks earlier, that he wasn’t contacted and didn’t sign off on either. Remarkably this assertion, which was never proven otherwise, showed that the Whitecaps ran 2 allegedly unsanctioned event, under this representative of BC Soccer’s watch, while we were being harassed to provide minute details of our event.
2013 WCSS SHOWCASE
- January 21, 2013: I receive an email from Markus Reinkens (mentioned previously) from the BC Provincial Program, cc-ed to Paul Mullen the Executive Director of BC Soccer, who again has scheduled mandatory Provincial team activities the same weekend as our Showcase. His response is to an email I have sent asking if he’d like to play a game at the event, to expose his U16 Provincial Team players to the college coaches in attendance, as the Alberta Provincial Team have chosen to do. He declines.
- February 2, 2013: Receive a phone call from someone that has a key role in planning the Whitecaps Showcase. He tells me how 2 people involved with the Whitecaps organization are “freaking out” at him because there are very few universities choosing to attend the Whitecaps showcase, as all of them are choosing to come to ours a couple weeks later instead. In this group of people freaking out at him, is the person who the year before went behind the Whitecaps group to try and partner with me, and who wanted to “get the Whitecaps out.” (see email from 2012 Showcase)
- March 29-31, 2013: Event is a huge success, with the Alberta Provincial Team and top teams from across Western Canada competing.
- We also have Eli Landsem, Norwegian National Team coach from 2009-2011, Randy Waldrum, from Notre Dame (NCAA 2004 and 2010 champs), Andrea Neil (former Canadian National Team captain and assistant coach), and Lisa Cole (NWSL Boston Breakers Head Coach) speak.
2014 WCSS SHOWCASE
- End of October, 2013 Perhaps because of trouble competing with our event in previous years and college coaches choosing to come to our event instead (as per the conversation in the WCSS 2013 Showcase), the Whitecaps announce that they will hold their event on the exact same Easter weekend as ours for the first time ever.
- HPL/BCSPL teams are mandated to go to the Whitecaps Showcase instead of ours, and we receive many emails from teams that had historically come to ours in the past that now cannot come to ours. An example here:
- April 14, 2014:
Thanks Ciara and I am sorry we couldn’t get teams into your Showcase this year. It really would have been my preference to have our .. teams in it (yours) but we are committed to the BCSPL showcase.Coach’s Name
- April 18-20, 2014 We have our biggest year yet with 34 teams in attendance, and over 40 college coaches.
I want to close this, by saying that my experience has taught me one very important thing. To control what I can and to focus on the good in this system. Despite what feels like constant harassment, undermining, and an anti-competitive environment, every year I have focused on putting everything I can to provide an incredible, memorable event that I wished I had the opportunity to attend when I was in high school. I have met amazing coaches, representatives, and wonderful people from around Western Canada, that makes Easter Weekend my favorite one of the year.
The irony, is that an event that I started for girls in Vancouver, is now only surviving because of the opportunities it is providing to the players outside of the Lower Mainland who make the trip to BC year after year. Every year, despite fantastic reviews, I have faced increasingly aggressive tactics to try and make our event irrelevant, and resign myself to the fact that at the end of the day this is the culture of soccer in BC and the people in charge, and whatever will happen will happen.
I recognize also, that I am very lucky in having two things on my side that perhaps most groups aren’t as lucky to have; a global network in women’s soccer, and an event that had a chance to establish its quality before it started to be undermined. That being said, I know the struggle that I have had despite this to continue the event year after year, and I can’t imagine the other groups and other potential fantastic opportunities for players in BC that are being stifled because of this anti-competitive environment that exists, and the people that continue to make their living off of it.
I continue to bother and to fight this because I believe that the way the system is currently is not in the best interest of the players in BC and I think every 15 year old with a dream like I had deserves to be in the best environment to make them become a reality. Year after year, players in BC are being stifled by some adults who truly don’t care about giving players and the game the best opportunity to develop, but rather want to keep their power intact and their pockets lined through a truly anti-competitive climate.
So for these reasons, Michael Findlay, your assertions in the Province Newspaper this week, in my opinion, couldn’t be farther from the truth.