Soccer associations are promising steps to improve how racial abuse at youth soccer games is addressed in the wake of multiple accusations on the South Island.
Stuart Bancroft, executive director of the Lower Island Soccer Association representing 11 associations, issued a statement from the LISA board following an interview request from Black Press.
“Sadly, the Lower Island Soccer Association (LISA) has been made aware of multiple cases of racial abuse on and off the playing field this season,” the Lower Island Soccer Association board of directors said in the statement.
LISA has notified all members that these incidents must stop immediately, and these incidents carry punishments up to and including expulsion from membership.
According to the statement, LISA-member clubs condemn all forms of racism and reiterate a commitment to providing a safe space for all participants. The welfare of everyone involved in soccer, especially children, is the foremost consideration and responsibility of everyone involved.
LISA recognizes the need for action and has committed to including continuous conversations with all local minority groups to ensure safe participation, an immediate review of internal policies and procedures, exploration of opportunities for an internal diversity self-assessment, and additional ways to further support member clubs in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, the statement noted.
LISA also encourages all racial discrimination, harassment, or sexual abuse to be reported immediately to ITP sport, the BC Soccer Association’s third-party judicial party. Information on reporting incidents, including a toll-free number, can be found at lowerislandsoccer.com.
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Gorge Soccer Association president Aaron Walker-Duncan said he was aware of an incident where a spectator hurled a racial slur at a First Nations youth during a U16 boys soccer game in Saanich last fall.
“I’m not aware of any other similar situations that have been brought to the attention of Gorge Soccer Association,” said Walker-Duncan, who has served as president for the past year and has been a member of the board for about five years.
“We have two teams of First Nations members and First Nations players of all ages on teams throughout the organization. Our current focus is on this specific incident because it’s very important in reconciliation efforts.”
Walker, who also volunteers and referees games, was disappointed by the incident because his volunteer efforts focus on creating a positive environment for all players.
He stressed that any discussion of efforts to deal with racism and discussions on diversity and inclusion applies to many different groups within the community.
Gorge Soccer Association has a large number of players that are new Canadians from Eritrea, Africa, and Peru, South America, he noted.
“The point is this is in a broader context that we’re trying to have as an organization dealing with racism, inclusion, and diversity.”
Walker-Duncan has been in contact with LISA to determine what actions should be taken moving forward, and the Gorge Soccer Association is reviewing its diversity, equality, and inclusion policies.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for kids and adults,” he said. “There’s no room for any discrimination of any sort.”