Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Quebec Soccer Must End Discrimination Now.

The right for everyone to play soccer should not be a debate in 21st Century Canada. The best aspects of soccer culture are in tune with our biggest aspirations for Canadian society. Diverse, inclusive, tolerant and accepting of others is who we are a nation and what we are as the world's sport.

The Quebec Soccer Federation`s blanket ban on turbans is an affront to our values and our laws. It flies in the face of FIFA`s official rules regarding headgear, and the CSA`s official directive specifically allowing turbans and patkas.

It is audacious intolerance and discrimination hiding behind beauraucracy.

First, a bit of background. Turbans are required to be worn by baptised Sikhs. They are not merely symbolic, but practical and protective headgear, as they believe their hair is sacred and must not be shorn. Turbans are made of soft fabric and are tied; not secured by pins. Many baptised Sikhs opt to wear smaller versions, known as patkas, when playing sports.

These are approved for wear by every known sporting association in Canada. They are approved and worn during soccer games in every province in this country.

Except one.

The QSF`s argument that FIFA laws are confusing regarding the issue issue is completely false and selective. FIFA`s official interpretation of the rules regarding equipment and headgear specifically empowers referees to determine whether headgear poses a risk, and directs them to ``show tolerance when authorising their use, particularly for younger players."  The Canadian Soccer Association has issued a directive specifically allowing turbans, patkas, headscarfs and Hijabs.

So, on a sporting level there`s no confusion. On a legal level, there`s no contest. The QSF has opened themselves up to potential discrimination and human rights battles they have virtually no hope of winning. The scale and scope of this discrimination is so clear and damaging.

There is no need for a single Sikh player in Quebec to go one day more without playing and enjoying soccer. The solution is simple.

The QSF must end this discriminatory practice now. Today. Not study it, not consider it, not debate it. They must end it and they must end it now.

If they do not, the  Canadian Soccer Association must take whatever means are necessary to end it at once.  They are the sport`s national governing body, and FIFA`s representative in Canada. They cannot allow a provincial association to so blatantly flout its directives, especially when they prevent children and young adults from a specific faith from playing the game.

And if the CSA fails to act immediately in the best interests of our sport and communities, we will. Whether it happens through organizing public pressure or through legal means, Friends of Soccer will not allow this discrimination to stand. When we are finished, no one will be illegally forced to choose between their sport and their faith. That is the only result possible in the end.

It is clear the Quebec Soccer Federation is standing on the wrong side of history. They can choose to walk to the right side themselves, or we will carry them there. The choice is theirs.

Bill Currie,
Friends of Soccer

Friends of Soccer: Quebec Turban Ban Cannot Stand.


When I formed Friends of Soccer in 2005, our specific goal was to mobilize grassroots support for the Whitecaps attempts to build a soccer stadium on the waterfront. While that goal did not come to fruition, the efforts of thousands of people who made their views known to governments and Major League Soccer through this site played a role in ensuring the future of professional soccer in Vancouver. We are all able to enjoy soccer at the highest level in Vancouver today.

Soccer is universal. It incorporates so many of the values that define us as Canadians; hard-working, competitive, diverse and tolerant. I have always enjoyed the common bond soccer brings to people of many cultures and beliefs, and wished that everyone could experience the joy of this great sport. No one should be denied that chance.

That is why I find the recent actions by the Quebec Soccer Federation disturbing. This past week, they have placed a total ban on turbans and other headgear, effectively barring baptised Sikhs from playing soccer. This is in direct contravention of FIFA rules, and a Canadian Soccer Association directive specifically allowing them on the field. Sikhs are currently able to play soccer with turbans or smaller coverings (known as patkas) in every province of Canada, except Quebec. The result of this ruling impacts children and young adults who love the game, but can no longer play with their friends and teammates.

Turbans are required to be worn by baptised Sikhs. They are not merely symbolic, but practical and protective headgear, as they believe their hair is sacred and must not be shorn. Turbans are made of soft fabric and are tied; not secured by pins. Many baptised Sikhs opt to wear smaller versions, known as patkas, when playing sports. No sports organization in Canada has deemed them dangerous, nor do they pose any reasonable risk to safety.

It is discrimination and intolerance of the most audacious kind. It cannot be allowed to stand.

Friends of Soccer will be organizing again to remedy this situation. In the past, we have shown that we can be effective in pressuring those in power to do what`s right for soccer.  This is a simple issue to solve, and if you believe everyone in Canada should have an equal opportunity to play soccer, I hope you will help.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Supporting the BC Place Renovations...

Just a couple of things on BC Place;

First, The BC Soccer Association has strongly endorsed the renovation:

Retractable roof plan is the right plan for BC Place

Second, I think most of us understand that the government is going to take a lot of criticism for this. It could have been politically easy for them to go with something second-rate, or walk away from the project altogether. They could have become yet another level of government that broke their promises to the soccer community, the Whitecaps, and the people of B.C. Only this time, it could have been fatal for our professional team.

But the government didn't. They kept their word. They've taken action that will ensure the Whitecaps will continue to exist for years to come. And now they're going to get hit hard by their critics, including the NDP who have once again changed their position on the BC Place roof.

Whatever you may think of this government, I believe it's important to let our elected officials know when they've done something right. I also believe in publicly supporting good decisions against critics who are bent on shouting down good ideas. Supporting good decisions now makes it easier for everyone in the soccer community to work with government in the future on other projects (ie. the Waterfront Stadium).

If you support the Whitecaps, and the BC Place renos, I encourage you to drop a quick thank-you email to Premier Campbell and Kevin Krueger (The Minister responsible for BC Place). Letters to the editor supporting BC Place would also be a big help. I've listed some addresses below.

People are always willing to take a swing at governments when they screw up. But few people are willing to come to their defence or thank them when they do something right. I know they appreciate it a lot when it happens, and it encourages them to do more good things. I hope you'll take a moment to write.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

MLA: Hon. Gordon Campbell

MLA: Hon. Kevin Krueger

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor require that you include your full name, phone number and address in your email.

The Vancouver Sun
To submit letters to the editor for publication in The Vancouver Sun newspaper:


The Province
E-mail: provletters@theprovince.com

The Globe & Mail

24 Hours (Vancouver)
Online form at:

Metro (Vancouver)
Online form at:

Friday, October 23, 2009

B.C. Place Renovation - The Right Choice

The announcement today that the BC Place renovations will go ahead as planned is great news for both sports fans and B.C.'s economy. Premier Campbell, Minister Krueger and the entire government caucus are to be commended for standing firm on this important election promise during challenging times.

During a recession, it's easy to see why some people may think investing in BC Place is a low priority. But the criticisms seem to be based solely on the number of sporting events held there each year. The stadium is far more vital to B.C.'s economy than just sporting events.

BC Place is currently used for 200 event days every year. Beyond sports, it hosts trade shows, conventions, community events and occasional concerts. So, sports alone not what investing in BC Place is about.

Investing in BC Place is about keeping jobs. Thousands of construction jobs on the roof and thousands more on the surrounding lands. It means thousands more in hospitality and tourism jobs. It keeps our largest city economically healthy. The economic spinoff just from having MLS alone could be worth as much $60 million in additional dollars per year. Add in the additional dates for large scale conventions and concerts that BC Place doesn't host now, and the numbers begin to make sense.

Every major city in North America that is comparable to Vancouver has at least one stadium built on the scale of BC Place. In many cities, like Seattle, there are two or even more. Seattle's downtown core has become more vibrant and alive with the additions of Qwest & Safeco Fields. The record crowds drawn by the MLS Seattle Sounders are helping to lift a stagnant economy, and have gone a long way to revitalizing what once a delapitated heritage section of the city. A rejuvenated BC Place will do the same in the surrounding areas, to the west and south of the stadium

In the end, there weren't many choices for the government in this scenario. A new downtown stadium would have cost the taxpayers upwards of $1 billion. Successive municipal governments have stood in the way of building a smaller scale stadium that could have been built completely with private funds. There had already been $65 million invested in stadium renovations. And while there were private investors reportedly considering investing in BC Place, the people of BC told the government that the stadium should remain a public entity.

The B.C. Government deserves a great deal of praise, thanks and respect for keeping this promise that was so important for the future of B.C. Sport, and B.C.'s economy. To this date, they are the only government at any level that has taken concrete action on the future of soccer in our province. Because of that, soccer players and fans can look forward to a fantastic new era in the history of our game, and our province can look forward to the economic benefits that will help fund the important government services we've come to expect.

See you on opening day!

Bill Currie,
Friends of Soccer

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Women's Professional Soccer in Vancouver

The growth of women's soccer in North America has been one of the great sport achievements of the last 25 years. This year marked the launch of Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), the second attempt at a fully professional league on our continent.

The Whitecaps have long been at the forefront of the development of women's soccer in Canada, and Friends of Soccer has long been a strong proponent of the women's game. Recently, we were approached by a UBC Master's Student who is working on a group study on the viability of a WPS team in Vancouver. While there are no plans at this time to bring WPS to Vancouver, I encourage you to take the time to fill out the survey below:

"Supporting the growth of soccer in BC and Canada is part of the Whitecaps organizational vision. The club has been made aware of a group of UBC Masters students who are studying the viability of a Women's Professional Soccer franchise in Vancouver. While not currently pursuing any opportunities with WPS, the Whitecaps are pleased that someone has made this a topic of study, and encourage any interested people to take the survey and contribute to an interesting thesis topic."

Click Here to take the Survey...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friends of Soccer Requests Clarity and Solutions on BC Place

In light of the speculation in the past week over the future of the BC Place roof, Friends of Soccer has sent the following letter to Premier Campbell and the entire Liberal caucus to seek clear answers and a solution to the issue:


Dear Premier Campbell,

Almost four months ago, your government was re-elected on a platform based on building opportunities for economic growth, bringing long term benefits for the people of British Columbia. The renovation of BC Place stadium was one of the projects designed to create jobs now, and to drive millions of dollars of economic activity in a time when all of our core industries are struggling. It was a promise your party proclaimed dozens of times to the electorate, and your party took every opportunity during the campaign to slam your opponents when they showed uncertainty about the project.

The confusing statements and lack of clarity regarding the future of BC Place over this past week has been damaging to the industries that are trying to plan for B.C.'s post-Olympic future. It has raised questions over the future viability of major professional sporting events, concerts and trade shows in B.C. It has caused grave uncertainty in the construction industry, who need jobs now, and has handcuffed the tourism and hospitality industries' ability to plan for the future.

We urge you, for the sake of B.C.'s economy, to find solutions to complete this project, and to make a clear statement that your government is committed to completing it.

Throughout the world, governments are battling the recession through strategic investments in capital infrastructure, and it's working. We know from the history of past recessions and the Great Depression that cutbacks to infrastructure spending only increases unemployment and keeps the economy stagnated in recession for longer periods of time. Future generations are also robbed of the net benefits of improved infrastructure.

A fully renovated B.C. Place Stadium will be a net contributor to the economy. Those are the types of projects this province needs right now. Hundreds of construction jobs would be created immediately. Hundreds of long-term permanent jobs would be directly created through the operation of BC Place. The growth in the number and quality of events that could be held at BC Place would create renewed prosperity for our tourism and hospitality sector.

In 2011, Major League Soccer is scheduled to come to Vancouver. As we have seen recently in Seattle and Toronto, the impact this will have on Vancouver and the province will be surprising and profound. Thousands travel across the continent every season to follow their team. Millions watch around the world as the games are beamed onto TV screens across Europe, Asia and South America. Recently, the City of Portland predicted the arrival of MLS in their city will generate up to $50 million a year in economic activity. Portland is one of the U.S. cities hit hardest by the recession, yet they see the wisdom in making infrastructure investments that allow them to grow in the future. It would be shortsighted to jeopardize that future now in B.C..

On top of this, the economic benefits of the major concerts, trade shows and sporting events (such as the 2011 Grey Cup) are well documented. Without a fully renovated BC Place stadium, these events fall into question as well.

Four months ago, Friends of Soccer chastised your opponents on this issue and reminded them that citizens expect governments to be able to address a host of issues. We expect government to provide sustainable services, while providing the opportunities for economic growth and the freedom to provide a good quality of life for our families. To say we must choose between them in our society is a false choice. We are writing to remind you of that today.

We urge your government to be clear and upfront on your intentions regarding the BC Place renovations, and work with all stakeholders involved to find solutions to the issue.

Sincerely yours,

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

May 12: A Vote For Soccer in B.C.

Elections are won and lost on a variety of issues, whether it's the economy, healthcare, education, the environment and a host of others. No one single issue should ever be the sole deciding factor when electing a government. But it's worth noting that the future of soccer has played a unique role in this provincial election campaign, and both the Liberals and NDP are trying to one-up each other to earn your vote. The entire soccer community has the ear of every candidate in the province right now, and if you're involved in soccer in any way as a player, referee, parent, fan or coach, you have an opportunity on May 12 to help steer the direction of our sport in B.C. I encourage you to consider this, and to share this message with your friends, teammates and anyone you know in B.C. who loves soccer.

Since 2005, Friends of Soccer has acted as a grassroots movement for the soccer community to stay informed on the issues and to communicate to elected officials our support for soccer projects that are important to the development of the game. Through your letters, phone calls and e-mails to elected officials, the soccer community has kept the dream of a downtown community stadium for the Whitecaps alive, and ensured that Major League Soccer will arrive and thrive in B.C. come 2011. While all of us in soccer have different political ideas and opinions, when it comes to the issues that impact soccer in our province, we have always had a strong unified voice.

Although we have been asked many times to do so, Friends of Soccer has never endorsed any political party in any election. The soccer community is too broad and diverse for an endorsement to be properly reflective and inclusive. Instead, we have simply laid out the facts as to where the parties and candidates stand in regard to soccer issues, and how well their actions have matched their words.

So, for this election, we will begin with the NDP.

In the week preceding the election campaign, the BC NDP ran a series of attack ads on several soccer-related websites condemning the renovation of BC Place, and falsely suggesting that the cost of the renovation is coming at the expense of healthcare and the homeless. The ads sparked outrage throughout the soccer community, as the BC Place renovation is vital to the existence of the Vancouver Whitecaps in our community. Rescinding the renovations would have also directly threatened many soccer projects throughout the province. (You can read the Friends of Soccer reaction here, as well as our response to the NDP's retraction).

On April 11, the NDP confirmed their full commitment to the BC Place renovations, and pulled the offensive ads. For this, they deserve applause as it showed they were willing to listen to criticism from the soccer community, and altered their position when they realized the consequences of this policy. That's how democracy should work. Many politicians at all levels of government would do well to learn a thing or two from this.

The NDP also announced $100 million for the construction of soccer fields throughout the province. Once again, very laudable and, If elected, they need to follow through on this. Constructing these soccer fields in places where they are needed, and building facilities for premier player development would be good for the sport in the province. If the NDP form government, it will be up to all of us to hold them accountable for this major promise.

However, the voters of B.C. have no firm details on this policy. We do not know what soccer projects they plan to complete, or in what cities or towns. We also don't know if they support or oppose the much needed National Soccer Development Centre proposed for Delta.

The NDP would do well to clarify their policies, so voters can make an informed choice. Doing this could go a long way to reconcile some of the hard feelings currently held within the soccer community towards the NDP for the previous attack ads, as well as the Federal NDP's irresponsible opposition to the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. In fact, the BC NDP would also do well to support the Whitecaps in building their new stadium on the waterfront.

As the governing party, the BC Liberals can be measured by not only the promises they make, but by their actions over the past four years. While they could have done better on many issues, from a pure soccer policy perspective, the current government has had a positive impact on the sport in B.C..

In the last four years, their government created an excellent active communities program to encourage fitness, sport and healthy living throughout the province. It is a participatory program that ties in not only to sport, but healthcare as well. They have a well-defined sport policy, and have constructed dozens of new sport facilities throughout the province.

On May 2, they made a major promise to construct a national soccer centre in Delta that will have nothing short of a profound impact on how Canada develops soccer players in the future. If re-elected, they can expect the soccer community to hold their feet to the fire on this commitment.

But the single biggest impact they've had was ensuring that the planned renovations at BC Place would be soccer-friendly. Without this government's last-minute intervention on this issue, the Whitecaps bid for Major League Soccer would have been dead in a sea of municipal red tape. The future of mens professional and womens soccer in Vancouver would have been thrown into doubt, and high level soccer in B.C. would have reverted back to the state it was in almost 25 years ago.

To this date, the BC Liberals are the only party at any level of government that has taken critical action to preserve professional soccer in B.C.

That being said, the Liberals could have done better and more. The BC Place renovations should have been planned and completed prior to the 2010 Olympics. This should never have been an election issue. Committing to the national soccer centre in Delta prior to the election campaign would have gone a long way to avoid some of the local cynicism that comes with an election time promise. The Liberals would do well to match the NDP's promise to build new soccer fields throughout the province. And the Liberals could do much more to support the waterfront stadium project.

Once again, this election campaign is made up of many issues, and it would be foolish to base a vote on just one. For many of us, soccer plays a huge role in the quality of life for us and our families. It's only right that we should know how our vote can impact the direction soccer takes in B.C.

On May 12, please exercise your democratic right to vote.

Yours in sport,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NDP Officially Back Down on BC Place Attacks

Responding to public outrage and pressure from the sports community, the BC NDP offically backed down from their attacks on the BC Place renovations. They also made clear that their platform now includes the full $365 million for the renovations, and includes the retractable roof. The NDP have now also clarified that they will spend $100 million for soccer fields and community centres throughout the province if elected.

You can read their full statement on the matter here:

While it's regrettable that the stadium was the target of political attack ads by the NDP, I am satisfied that the New Democrats are now fully committed to this project. But they should know that the pressure they felt on this issue over the past week is just a fraction of what our community can bring on them, or any political party, if they choose to use sport as a political pawn again.

The past week has been a testament to what the soccer and sports community can accomplish when we band together. This is a strong win for sport in BC. Regardless of which political party wins in May, they can be certain that the sports community will hold them accountable for their promises, and that we will challenge them when they take action detrimental to sport in our province.

Yours in Sport,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer