Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Letter to Supporters: Friends of Soccer Campaign to Go National

Dear Whitecaps Stadium Supporters,

For the past 15 months, all of us have been quietly supportive of the Vancouver Whitecaps as they engaged in good faith negotiations with the Vancouver Port Authority for the land they need to build the new Whitecaps Stadium. Unfortunately, last week a Port official leaked details of the confidential talks and damaged public confidence in this open process. It has since become clear that the Port has little intention of restoring our faith that they will proceed in the best interests of the Citizens of Vancouver.

The time for us to be quiet on the Whitecaps stadium has ended.

As the Whitecaps have already mentioned, media reports that they offered $1 for the vacant parking lot needed to build the stadium are an outright lie. The Whitecaps have offered 30,000 square meters of prime railyard land in exchange for the 10,000 square meter parking lot needed to complete the stadium. This 3 to 1 land exchange is not only fair, but generous to the Port, as they've long needed better access to the railway yards to fulfill its mandate.

The land the Whitecaps are asking for provides nothing more for the Port than parking, small offices and a Helijet pad, which is likely to be relocated to the new transit hub. It cannot become a space for new container cranes or other Port facilities. The Port also claims the stadium may impede their operations. Yet, this does not seem to be a problem if the Whitecaps pay a $35 million fee for the exact same land. The Port Authority's attempts to squeeze additional cash and land out of the Whitecaps is shameless to say the least. To do so in a way that undermines the public interest is completely unacceptable.

Despite being a Crown Corporation, the Port Authority believes it can be completely unaccountable to the Citizens of Vancouver. It's here where we need to come together once again and prove them wrong. We already know from our past stadium battles that 70% of Vancouverites want the stadium built on the Waterfront...and they wanted it finished yesterday! We also know that we can shake the foundations of our politicians when they know that thousands of citizens who play, coach or enjoy sport take notice of the issues.

Our politicians know that many of us aren't regularly involved in politics, and they become concerned when we speak out. They also know that when we get involved, we may not march, or hold noisy protests. But they know all too well that we can go quietly enmasse into a voting booth and defeat their government.

That is the clear message we must get through to them. We have to give them that message like never before.

As the stadium benefits all of us who love soccer and rugby in Canada, the Friends of Soccer Campaign will begin to take a national focus. Over the days and weeks ahead, all Conservative and Liberal Members of Parliament will need to hear from us.

We will also have to seriously question the NDP's incomprehensible opposition to a stadium that will benefit so many of the working class families they claim to represent. While we have always strived to stay non-partisan in this debate, the attempts by NDP MP Libby Davies to undermine the stadium can no longer go unchallenged. The federal NDP must answer for her actions, and NDP members who truly love soccer must stand up for the majority of citizens.

We also need to especially hold to account any B.C. Politician who is opposed or apathetic to the Whitecaps Stadium. We need to make clear that we will no longer take "this isn't our jurisdiction...this is a federal matter...we have no say" as an answer. A provincial MLA is perfectly capable of calling or visiting Ottawa to push for action. A City Councilor, especially one who aspires to be mayor, needs to stand up for the best interests of its citizens, and not just sit around and hope for good things to happen. They need to do the work that would be expected of them if Vancouver were trying to land the Olympics or its first NHL team. After all, if they can't resolve a simple issue such as accepting a free stadium, how can we possibly believe they're capable of handling complex issues like transportation and homelessness?

In the near future, at my own expense, I will be traveling to Ontario to request a meeting with the Minister of Transportation, Lawrence Cannon. I am also willing to meet with any M.P. or Senator who wants to champion our cause. Somehow, I know, I will not be alone in doing this.

The effort we'll need from Canada's soccer and rugby community is immense, but it begins with a simple action that you can take. If you can write or call a Member of Parliament, that's a start. If you play on or coach a team, encourage your teammates to get involved. If you volunteer for a minor soccer or rugby organization, tell other parents about the stadium they're trying to build in Vancouver, and bring them on board.. If you're involved in your Provincial Association, please get get your whole province involved.

And, above all else, we need the Canadian Soccer Association and Rugby Canada to become stronger proponents for the stadium. Their offices are in Ottawa and Toronto. They're closest to the ears of the decision makers. They have the ability to reach every single team and player in the country. They need to push harder than anyone.

We, as Canadians, should not have to do the work that we elect our leaders at every level to do. Yet we're faced with this situation today and for the weeks and months to come. We cannot become a true soccer nation until we have stadiums and top-flight teams in our largest cities. Rugby will not meet it's potential without stadiums as well. Once that happens, our sports will inevitably evolve and flourish across the country. By taking action today, you'll know someday that you played a role in building a solid foundation for soccer and rugby in Canada.

Yours in Sport,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Vancouver Province editorial: "Vancouver needs to get on and build soccer stadium"

The Vancouver Province had some strongly worded advice on Sunday regarding the Whitecaps Stadium : Get on with it!

"Vancouver likes to boast it is a world-class city. But in the negotiations to build a new waterfront soccer stadium it is proving to be a minor-league player indeed."

You can read the full editorial here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

CKNW's Jim Mullin Calls on B.C. Politicians to Act

CKNW sports reporter Jim Mullin lashed out at the Port Authority this afternoon for their indifference to the public good of Vancouver, and called on all BC Politicians to "get off their hind legs and bark for Vancouver". Jim has long been a great stadium supporter.

You can download the clip here:


Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Whitecaps Stadium Needs Champions...Not Cheerleaders

Friends of Soccer Letter to The Vancouver Sun & City Council

Why does it take five years to build a soccer stadium? Especially when the owner is willing to build it with his own cash. Only in Vancouver, where developers and poverty activists overrule the majority of working citizens could this happen.

Our city is about to spend $5 million in taxpayers money on scaffolding and portapotties on the temporary Olympic venues for cultural events that could have been hosted in the Whitecaps Stadium. Multiply that by all of the festivals and events that close downtown streets and stretch our police, and you will see that the savings would have been enough to pay for the stadium many times over. All of this is over and above the desire of soccer fans to enjoy the same world class game hockey fans enjoy.

No doubt, our mayor and councillors will try to say “wait...that's not our fault...we support the stadium”. But all they've been so far are cheerleaders. There's a difference between cheerleaders and champions. The champions are the ones willing to go the extra mile to make the extraordinary happen. Cheerleaders just stand on the sidelines and shout.

Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Friends of Soccer Brief Statement on Port Authority Leak

From Friends of Soccer:

On Wednesday, April 23, the Director of Planning and Development for the Vancouver Port Authority intentionally leaked selected private details of their negotiation regarding the Whitecaps stadium to a reporter from CKNW. While we will not speculate on the ethical impropriety of Mr. McLaughlin's actions at this time, we can honestly say that his words and actions has damaged public confidence in an open process that began over three years ago. It is imperative that the Port Authority act quickly to repair this public trust, and to negotiate a truly fair arrangement with the Whitecaps in good faith. Failing that, we see no other option but to call for federal intervention.

Yours in Sport,
Bill Currie
Friends of Soccer

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Whitecaps Stadium Saga Handcuffs Soccer in BC

For Whitecaps fans, the start of a new season always brings fresh hope and anticipation. Tonight's home opener against the Montreal Impact is no exception. With a new coach, a new philosophy of the game, and a few fresh faces in the squad, we have a lot of reasons to believe we'll make a run at the playoffs this year.

But, as we all know, the picture for the Whitecaps success is far from complete. It's not due to a lack of ambition or effort on the Whitecaps part. The ongoing stadium saga, which is being stymied by the City, the Port Authority, and the Federal Government, is handcuffing the Whitecaps efforts to grow the game. And the time is coming for us to once again rise up and let our elected officials know this is not acceptable.

It's a crucial year for the stadium. We have a municipal election coming up in November, where we'll have to hold the mayor and city council accountable for their appalling lack of effort in pursuing the stadium. There's always the possibility of a federal election as well, and we have to pressure Ottawa to release the vacant lot the Whitecaps need to build the stadium. And we once again have to rally the citizens of BC to show our governments that we haven't gone away, and that we're not going away until the stadium is built.

If we look beyond the stadium, we'll see that the Caps have made great strides in building the deep infrastructure a modern football club needs to thrive. The training facilities they've built at SFU and plan to build in Delta will ensure that many soccer players in the province can can learn and train at a higher level. The residency program they launched last fall is the first in Canada that creates a direct route to a career in soccer for young elite players without forcing them to go to Europe. Their commitment to supporting our underfunded women's national team is extraordinary, and they offer opportunities for women soccer players that are unmatched in Canada. And to top it all off, they've brought a level of harmony between the amateur and professional game through working with the BC Soccer Association. This year, the Whitecaps will field a team in the PCSL, and sponsor Super-Y league teams for young players throughout the province. They provide soccer camps throughout BC and hold countless free clinics for kids throughout the Lower Mainland.

There are other good professional soccer organizations in Canada. The Montreal Impact are an impressive team that shares some of the same goals as the Caps in Quebec. And Toronto FC have put their government-funded stadium to good use by uniting a fractured soccer scene in that part of the country and providing grassroots opportunities for kids. But the Whitecaps have taken the responsibility of growing the game of soccer in BC and Western Canada on their shoulders, and it's here where they're leading the way.

Growing soccer in BC, however, is a futile exercise if we have no home for the game. We'll continue to send our best players away from home, and we'll be continually fighting to keep pro soccer alive in Swangard. The Whitecaps already play in one of the oldest, smallest facilities in USL, and they play against teams that already reap the benefits of having their own soccer specific stadiums. And we now know that we can't even hope for Major League Soccer in Vancouver until the stadium issue is resolved. In a country where so many of our best players come from this province, Vancouver should be leading the way...not playing catchup with Toronto or Montreal.

Once again, we need you to take action and make your voice heard. Tell your local Conservative or Liberal Member of Parliament to pressure the transport minister to release this vacant parking lot for the good of the city. If your MP is an NDP member, ask them why they're opposed to building a privately-funded community stadium and growing the game of soccer in BC. And finally, let the mayor and city council know that they're not doing enough to deliver on the stadium promise they made to citizens almost two years ago, and that we need the stadium finalized before the November election.

You can write to the Mayor and city Council at mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca

Here is a list of our local M.Ps.