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

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

Monday, April 06, 2009

CKNW Editorial Slams Both Libs & NDP on BC Place

Today, Jim Mullin of CKNW took direct aim at the BC Place situation, condemning the misleading NDP internet ads, and assigning a fair share of blame on the Liberals as well.

You can hear the complete editorial here:

"The Liberals could have done themselves and all of us a big favour. They could have acted years ago on this issue. The roof should have been in place for the Olympics in 2010, but it isn't after some "Made in BC" serial dithering... Extending the life of the stadium by 25 years is one of the larger projects in BC which can get access to credit, create jobs, build infrastructure, and create spinoff economic benefits, and eventually have the majority portion of the reno pay for itself. In a world where the left and centre of the political spectrum are embracing shovel-ready projects to create jobs and keep the economy rolling, the NDP's position on this issue issue is puzzling at best. At worst, it's designed to pit region versus region, small town versus large city, and rich versus poor. The New Democrats tell us we have to make a choice between social spending before retrofitting a facility that generates economic benefit to the community. That kind of thinking is the economic equivalent of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time"

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Friends of Soccer Objects to NDP Anti-Soccer Stadium Ads

On Wednesday, April 1, the BC New Democratic Party ran a series of internet 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. We at Friends of Soccer find these ads extremely misleading and inappropriate. We call on the NDP to immediately back away from this irresponsible threat to the future of soccer in our province.

The claim in the ad that BC citizens must choose between a soccer-friendly stadium and social services is both false and offensive. The NDP is well aware that the BC Place renovations are to be financed by the future sale and development of the lands surrounding the stadium, along with future sponsorship funds surrounding naming rights. Neither source is drawn from the general revenue tax base that fund social programs. To suggest otherwise is alarmist to say the least.

The NDP is also aware that the BC Place renovations are crucial to the development of soccer in the province. Only two weeks ago, Vancouver was awarded a Major League Soccer team for 2011. The BC Place renovations promised by the current provincial government were overwhelmingly the deciding factor in the bid process. The threat made by Carole James to revoke the renovations could place the future of professional soccer in BC in doubt, and has the potential to choke soccer projects being undertaken in other parts of BC as well.

Carole James should also recognize that BC Place is a major economic engine for the citizens of BC. Every event held there pumps millions of dollars into the BC Tourism, Hospitality and Retail industries. It is BC's largest trade and exposition centre, hosting over 200 events every year. And it is also home to the BC Lions, a football team loved by people throughout the province. Without these renovations, it is unlikely British Columbia would be hosting the Grey Cup game in 2011. The global exposure this facility provides for BC is unsurpassed.

As citizens, we expect governments to be able to address a host of issues. We expect our governments to provide sustainable healthcare, while still encouraging economic growth in our cities and towns. We expect our governments to help those who are downtrodden, but we also insist that governments allow its working citizens the freedom to build a good quality of life for their families. To say we must choose between these priorities is a false choice, and any party who forces that choice is not capable of governing this province.

Friends of Soccer has always been, and continues to be, a non-partisan grassroots movement. We have always supported the efforts of those who help the game in BC, and we've fiercely opposed those who threaten the development of soccer in our province. I'm pleased to say that we've done this regardless of party affiliation. But in this election campaign, we cannot allow the future of soccer in BC to be once again cast into doubt for cheap political gain.

It is now up the BC New Democratic Party to make a clear statement committing their party to the BC Place renovations without modification of the current plans or budget.

Otherwise, they can be certain that we will not stand idly by in this election campaign.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Historic Day For Soccer & Our City!

In 1979, a simple soccer team and a famous sportscaster's slip of the tongue, brought Vancouver together like never before. In the buildup to ABC's coverage of the '79 NASL Soccer Bowl, the legendary Jim McKay innocently referred to Vancouver as a “deserted village”. When the Whitecaps returned home as Champions of the North American Soccer League, over a hundred thousand Vancouverites took to the streets in joy and made the word “Villager” a badge of honour. Vancouver had never celebrated anything with such unity and passion before. Nor has it since.

March 18, 2009 is a great day in history for both soccer and our city. Today's announcement that the Vancouver Whitecaps will become a member of Major League Soccer in 2011 is the fantastic result of almost seven years of hard work and vision by Greg Kerfoot, Bob Lenarduzzi, Rachel Lewis and the entire Whitecaps organization. The B.C. soccer community and the citizens of Vancouver owe them a great debt of gratitude and heartfelt congratulations for their achievement.

More than ever before, soccer has become the international language of the world, and Vancouver can now reclaim its top tier place in the game's global community. Famous soccer clubs from the great cities of the world will once again make their way to Vancouver on a regular basis, and the Whitecaps name will become synonomous with our city throughout the globe. The soccer culture that has always existed in Vancouver & B.C. will flourish like never before, and our children will be able to grow up knowing that the soccer they play is much more than a "foreign" game.

The news that Vancouver is once again back at the top level of North American soccer will also bring tremendous benefits to our city for generations to come. The culture of traveling support that exists in MLS will fill thousands of hotel rooms, and bring new jobs and millions of dollars into our local economy at a time when we need it most. The tens of thousands of new patrons that will descend into the City Centre will help relieve some of the pressures felt by small businesses in Downtown, Chinatown, and Gastown. Vancouver can expect to reap the economic benefits of MLS for decades to come.

But more important is soccer's ability to unite people from all different walks of life. Today, the Whitecaps are giving Vancouver one of its first truly multicultural institutions that's inclusive, accessible and comfortable for people of all cultures, races and backgrounds. It's a fine legacy for an organization that has given so much of its time, effort and resources to communities throughout B.C. & Western Canada.

Soccer in Vancouver, B.C. and all of Canada is stronger today than it was yesterday. But it is still a work in progress. For Canada to continue its progress, we need more solid clubs. We need fewer petty territorial squabbles. We need to accept a soccer culture that builds professional excellence. And we need real soccer infrastructure in our country, such as stadiums.

But today is for celebrating the deserved achievements of the Vancouver Whitecaps. It's a chance to look back on all of the good a simple soccer club has done for this city over almost 35 years. And it's a dare to dream about what might be possible in the years ahead.

Today, Vancouver is a “Village” once again.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Globe & Mail: Whitecaps Win MLS Expansion Race!

The Globe and Mail is reporting this morning that the Whitecaps have been offered one of the two MLS expansion spots for 2011, and that they are in final negotiations with Major League Soccer.

The report says we can expect a formal announcement by either March 19 or March 31.

You can read the full story here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whitecaps Stadium: Waterfront Transit Hub Open Houses


As you may know, Vancouver's Friends of Soccer is represented on the City Hall advisory board on the proposed Central Waterfront Transit Hub, which directly affects transit access to the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. This is a project that intends to combine buses, all Skytrain lines, Seabus and commuter trains in one efficient, centralized building that will be a showcase on the downtown waterfront. The hub involves land that is owned by the City, as well as the Whitecaps and several other stakeholders in the area.

The City of Vancouver will be holding open houses on the transit hub next week on:

Thursday, March 5, 3pm-7pm - Waterfront Station
Saturday, March 7, 10am-2pm, Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch

Although much of the attention these days is on the MLS bid and the renovation of BC Place, it's important to remember that the Whitecaps still intend to pursue building their own stadium on the waterfront lands they own, in conjunction with a possible land swap with the Port of Vancouver. Building a proper transit hub in the area could be an important part of any compromise that may happen regarding the stadium.

I believe it's also important for us as soccer supporters to remind City Hall that we haven't gone away, and that as long as the Whitecaps regard BC Place as a temporary solution, we do so as well. We should also send the message that it's important for any Transit Hub on the Waterfront be properly designed and equipped to handle the crowds for any stadium the Whitecaps plan to build in the future.

We may be working for the long term here...maybe even 2016. But if we're invisible at these open houses next week, or at any stage in this process, we risk hurting any chance we have when the stadium issue rises again. While I realize the transit hub isn't directly soccer related, it does impact the Whitecaps stadium for the future.

If you live in Metro Vancouver or BC, please come to the open houses. If you live outside of BC, or can't make it to the meetings, please read the material at this website:

And then please e-mail your comments in support to Matt Shilito at:

Yours in Soccer,

Bill Currie
Friends Of Soccer