Wednesday, October 31, 2007

2011 Women's WC Fallout Part One: Canada needs more stadiums

The decision by FIFA to hand the 2011 Women's World Cup to Germany should not have caused great surprise among soccer fans on both sides of the Atlantic. The German football association mounted an excellent bid that featured 12 state-of-the-art modern stadiums, the world's best womens team, and a rich football culture. The success of the 2011 Women's WC is virtually assured, and Germany has every reason to celebrate their well-deserved win.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter had some kind words for Canada in our loss. He said that Canada had showed "what football can be in a country where so far football was not the sport number one. We appreciate what you've done and we have good hopes for you and what you can do in the future."

But it's obvious that one of the things we have to work on if there's to be a bright future for soccer in Canada is stadium infrastructure. John Rocha was the Chairman of Canada's 2011 bid, and the first thing he spoke of after the loss was the lack of proper stadiums in two of Canada's soccer hotbeds, Vancouver and Victoria:

"I don't think Burnaby and Victoria were what FIFA was looking for as venues for 2011," Rocha told the Vancouver Sun. "We need bigger stadiums in those areas, like the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium, which will have a seating capacity of 15,000."

That qualifies for the understatement of the year. Germany could offer up twelve World Cup calibre stadiums. While we all coped the best we could with scaffolding and portapotties at Swangard and Royal Athletic Park during the FIFA U-20, we're still at the mercy of FIFA when it comes to allowing the continued use of temporary facilities. We need permanent infrastructure. Our guests from around the world deserve better, and soccer fans throughout B.C. deserve better.

Stadium Now's John Kostiuk wrote an excellent piece on his website about Vancouver's lack of infrastructure, and the never-ending struggle to build the Whitecaps Stadium. He sums it up nicely here.

"The Vancouver Whitecaps FC have been trying to build a new soccer specific stadium in Vancouver officially since October of 2005, and unofficially well before then at the behest of the then mayor of Vancouver Larry Campbell. Suffice it to say that the City of Vancouver has laid down a number of roadblocks that were not there for BC Place and GM Place. Dealing with multiple layers of bureaucracy and inertia at various levels of government has been a long slog for the team and without an owner like Greg Kerfoot, most people would have given up a long time ago...Toronto has their new soccer stadium, Montreal is almost done with theirs, all we need now is for people in Vancouver to continue to push for our own improved infrastructure. What seems like pushing a rock up a never ending hill is unfortunately the level of effort needed to counteract the gravitational forces of lack of vision, bureaucracy, and misinformation."

Kostiuk also touched on the Canadian Soccer Association's mystifying refusal to host the Women's CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament in Canada. This is despite the obvious advantages for our national team, as well as offers from the Whitecaps and a reported group in Quebec to cover the costs. Refusing to host an international event of this calibre does absolutely nothing to advance our game, and is completely unjustifiable. In Part Two, we'll talk about how soccer supporters can help save this opportunity, and how we can advance our game beyond petty politics.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Monday, October 29, 2007

Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium Central to Canada's 2011 Women's World Cup Bid

Canada will put it's best foot forward on Tuesday as FIFA will decide which country will earn the right to host the 2011 Women's World Cup. The Canadian delegation, led by former Whitecaps President John Rocha, will make it's presentation to FIFA at 11:30 am Zurich time (3:30 AM Pacific), and the decision will be announced at 3:00 PM Zurich time (7:00 AM Pacific). Both the presentation and decision can be seen live at FIFA.COM .

On the surface, it might seem like Canada is in for a tough battle against its only rival, Germany. And, no doubt, it's true. The German Women are still celebrating their recent World Cup triumph in China, and their bid features the unrivalled stadium infrastructure that is the legacy of their incredibly successful 2006 Mens World Cup Finals. Because they've invested in modern soccer stadiums, Germany is in a position to put forward strong bids for any major soccer competition in the world.

But Canada will have much to offer in Zurich tomorrow as well. And FIFA has taken notice.

Our country showed at this past summer's FIFA U-20 World Cup that there's been a long, pent up demand for world class soccer. Canadians set an all-time attendance record for the tournament. It's a demand that's been artificially held back over the years by a lack of professional clubs beyond Vancouver, Toronto & Montreal, as well as modern facilities for them to play in. We're now seeing what new stadiums in Toronto and Montreal can do for the professional game. In Vancouver, we could have the best stadium of them all.

Our women's national program is also among the best developed in the world, and there's plenty of opportunity for women of all ages to play the game at every level. The Whitecaps have also built one of the top women's clubs in North America, winning the W-League title twice in the past four seasons, and sending several of their players to the national team. FIFA also remembers our country's outstanding response to the inaugural Womens U-19 World Cup in 2002. The strength of women's soccer in Canada could help tip the balance in our favour tomorrow in Zurich.

The Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium will play a central role in Canada's presentation tomorrow, with suggestions that Vancouver could play host to the major games of the tournament such as the opening game, the semi-final, or even the final itself. Of course, it would have helped strengthen the bid if Vancouver City Council had made a stronger commitment to allowing the stadium to move forward.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, Vancouver still needs the stadium. But wouldn't it be great if we could open it by doing what Vancouver does best; by inviting the world?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stadium Drawings Show Seawall Extended, Crab Park Untouched & Unaffected

The Vancouver Whitecaps have released renderings of the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium on a revised site located next to the seabus. While there still won't be a design for the stadium until the project goes to rezoning, there's a couple of potentially exciting things the drawings reveal.

First, the drawings have confirmed that the Whitecaps intend to use the stadium to extend the city's seawall. This alone should be enough of a reason for every city councillor to get actively behind the stadium. An extended seawall would provide the first public access to this part of the downtown waterfront in almost a century. It could also allow the seawall to link up with the new Carrall Street Greenway, which would provide cyclists and pedestrians a continuous loop around downtown, False Creek, Stanley Park and Coal Harbour. Those of us who live or work downtown have been wanting this for a very long time, and it's great to see the Whitecaps offerring to deliver yet another public amenity with this project.

Second, the drawings show conclusively that Crab Park will be completely untouched and unaffected by the stadium. In fact, the drawings show the stadium will be located more than 100 metres away from the park; enough room to place another soccer field there if you wanted to. This should come as a great relief to the few stadium opponents left that feared for the future of Crab Park. Many of them were worried that the stadium would be right up against the edge of the park, or even worse, replace the park itself. Of course, neither of these was ever going to happen. Once again, the Whitecaps have shown that they're willing to address the stadium opponents' issues, even if the opponents are still unwilling to meet with them.

Please show your support for the Whitecaps Stadium by writing City Council today! You can e-mail them now at .

(Just an editor's note:

Someone has correctly pointed out to me that these drawings are not "new" and have been on public record with the City of Vancouver since July, 2007. For the record, what I meant is that these are renderings that have appeared recently on the Whitecaps website.)

Bill Currie

Whitecaps release revised stadium site pictures

The Vancouver Whitecaps have released renderings of the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium on a revised site located next to the seabus. You can see the full size renderings on the Whitecaps Official Site.

(Just an editor's note:

Someone has correctly pointed out to me that these drawings are not "new" and have been on public record with the City of Vancouver since July, 2007. For the record, what I meant is that these are renderings that have appeared recently on the Whitecaps website.)

Bill Currie

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stadium Now: Beckham, soccer, and a stadium

John Kostiuk of Stadium Now took some time yesterday to share his thoughts on the upcoming L.A. Galaxy game and how it demonstrates the obvious need for the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. David Beckham and the Galaxy will face the Whitecaps at B.C. Place on Wednesday, Nov.7 at 7PM. Ticket information can be found here.

From Stadium Now:

It was announced today that David Beckham and the LA Galaxy will be here November 7 to play the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.

So what does this post have to do with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC efforts to build a soccer specific stadium in downtown Vancouver? Burnaby is currently home to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC as they play their games out of Swangard Stadium; however, its capacity is limited to 5,288 fans and the team does not own the stadium - with all the limitations that entails.

The more than 40,000 tickets sold so far for an exhibition game are one example of the potential for soccer in the city of Vancouver. While Burnaby has been a good host for the Whitecaps it is time to bring the team home.

Whether it is easy access to numerous modes of public transit, the ability for residents and workers downtown to walk to the stadium, and a host of other benefits - the viable option is to build the Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium downtown, not in the suburbs.

Where a parking lot now stands lies the opportunity to open up the waterfront to residents and visitors alike - and that’s a step forward.

It is time to match the facility with the demand and build a world class stadium. If we had that already the Beckham game could have been a regular season game instead of a one off.

John Kostiuk