thumbnail Hello,'s Martin MacMahon has a look at the ups and downs in the women's game in British Columbia over the past while, from awards to controversy at the university level.

Somebody asked me the other day about the state of women’s soccer in British Columbia.

And to be honest, I didn’t know what on Earth to tell them.

It’s been strange times on this coast for the women’s game, with the highs of a successful CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifying tournament hosted at BC Place just under a year ago, to news last week that the Vancouver Whitecaps are making a “structural change” to their women’s program – the most cynical way imaginable of describing the scrapping of the senior women’s team which competed in the W-League in 2012.

While many hardcore supporters of the club – that is, supporters with the idea the club should field men’s, women’s and youth teams – were apoplectic upon hearing of the news last week, maybe they shouldn’t have been so surprised.

The women’s program surely wasn’t a money maker – and at the end of the day the Whitecaps aren’t a community trust as some conceptualize – they’re a business. And with the club now in Major League Soccer, and most likely operating on the finest of margins, that transition from community club to corporate entity is in full bloom.

If it doesn’t make you cash, it’s got to go. See ya, ladies.

And while that news is disappointing for advocates of the women’s game – now young female players will have only rare glimpses to watch role models play in the flesh – it runs in stark contrast to the general feel of the direction of the women’s game as a whole in this community.

Local legend and national icon Christine Sinclair, who carried the flag for Canada the closing ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics – as well as carrying the team on her back all the way to a bronze medal in that tournament – was just named the winner of the Lou Marsh award this week after that Olympic record breaking six-goal tournament.

Sinclair followed that up by claiming the CSA’s female player of the year award on Tuesday for the ninth year running.

And so as the Burnaby native sets an example for young girls throughout the country, and throughout this local community, with some truly remarkable achievements – those youngsters won’t be seeing much in the way of elite women’s soccer on a regular basis.

Yet while a regular dose of semi-pro women’s soccer won’t be on the menu – as it has been for over a decade – the city is set to host matches in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, with some touting BC Place for the final.

There’s also the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup, which one would guess will also feature matches in B.C.
The Canadian soccer story is never a simple one, it would seem.

The roller coaster doesn’t stop with just the club game in this town, however, as the University of British Columbia went about an interesting way of hiring its new women’s coach.

The university’s website indicated those interested could submit their resumés for consideration any time between December 1 and December 7.

And yet – the university named Marc Rizzardo as their head women’s coach on December 6.

Now this isn’t an attack on Rizzardo, who has an impressive resumé of his own, both as a physiotherapist (he was chief therapist for the Canadian medical team at London 2012 Olympics as well as the winter games hosted in Vancouver in 2010), and as a coach at the college level (he won four national championships with the Langara College men’s team), but by making the announcement a day early – it would seem to an outside observer that the search for a new coach and the call for applications was just for show.

Which would be no problem if this was a professional club. But this is a little different. UBC is a publicly funded institution, and this is one of the biggest coaching jobs in the country. So a diligent, thorough and fair search for a new coach should be expected.

But maybe that was just a slip up. Surely there were other contenders for the role that got an interview, perhaps, say, a former national women’s player with a UEFA A licence?

A woman like, say, Andrea Neil. She hasn’t done much of note – just played in four Women’s World Cups for Canada, had her jersey retired by the (now defunct) Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team, and, get this – was the first woman (in any sport) inducted into Canada’s Sport Hall of Fame.

Ms. Neil didn’t get an interview for the job.

Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have given her an interview either.