British Columbia

Referees union labels Vancouver Whitecaps head coach's comments 'disgusting'

The union representing soccer referees in Major League Soccer is criticizing comments made by Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini after his team's playoff elimination on the weekend.

Coach Vanni Sartini joked about being the prime suspect if referee Tim Ford was found in False Creek

Vanni Sartini
Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini is restrained by a member of his staff after receiving a red card from referee Tim Ford. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The union representing soccer referees in Major League Soccer is criticizing comments made by Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini after his team's playoff elimination on the weekend.

The Professional Soccer Referees Association (PSRA) called Sartini's post-match comments "disgusting'' and claims that he has taken the rhetoric against officials to a "dangerous new level.''

Sartini was kicked out of the game and expressed his displeasure with the refereeing of Tim Ford by saying afterwards: "If they found [Ford] in False Creek then I'm going to be a suspect. I'm not saying that I would do it, I'm saying I'm the first suspect — it's different.''

Sartini made it clear he was joking and did add that he got along with Ford personally. But he also called Ford's work refereeing the crucial game a "disaster."

The Whitecaps lost 1-0 to Los Angeles FC on Sunday courtesy a debatable penalty from league top scorer Denis Bouanga.

WATCH | Disrespectful language 'being called out more' in sport, says former Olympian: 

Vancouver Whitecaps coach's comments would be unacceptable elsewhere, former Olympian says

7 months ago
Duration 3:53
After the Vancouver Whitecaps' MLS playoff elimination, coach Vanni Sartini joked about being the prime suspect if referee Tim Ford was found in False Creek. Speaking to BC Today host Michelle Eliot, former Olympic rower and communication professor Jennifer Walinga said while disrespectful comments are often tolerated in sports, there are growing calls to change that.

Daily Hive sports journalist Har Johal was at the press conference where Sartini made the comments and said it was clear to everyone in the room they weren't meant as a threat. Still, she expects he will be sanctioned. 

"I think Major League Soccer will come down with a fine and a suspension. How long and how big? I'm not sure," she said. 

'Not surprised' union wants incident reviewed

Johal said the strong response from the PSRA is understandable. 

"In this day and age, there's a lot of talk and threats made against referees," she said.

"They want to defend their officials and support them. So I completely understand where they're coming and not surprised that they obviously want the league to review what happened."

Referee Tim Ford, centre right, is followed by Vancouver Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed, centre left, and Sam Adekugbe, back left, as he leaves the field after Los Angeles FC defeated the Vancouver Whitecaps during game 2 of a first round MLS playoff soccer match, in Vancouver, on Sunday, November 5, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Referee Tim Ford, centre right, is followed by Vancouver Whitecaps' Ali Ahmed, centre left, and Sam Adekugbe, back left, as he leaves the field after Los Angeles FC elimnated the Vancouver Whitecapsfrom the MLS playoffs. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Vancouver's players and coaching staff were upset with the decision to award the game-winning penalty, as well as Ford's collision with Whitecaps midfielder Alessandro Schöpf in stoppage time, which prevented the Austrian from taking a shot that could have potentially tied the game.

The collision left Schöpf left lying on the ground as LAFC counter-attacked and scored an apparent second goal that was called back for offside.

Sartini received a red card and was sent off for objecting to Ford initially awarding the goal. He will automatically miss the first game of next season.

The Italian first took over as the Whitecaps interim coach in 2021 and recently signed a new contract through to 2025.

Johal said it will be interesting to see if Ford works any more playoff games this season given the controversies on Sunday.

"I thought Tim Ford was not good," she said. "He had a bad day and ... he did not have command of the game."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karin Larsen

@CBCLarsen

Karin Larsen is a former Olympian and award winning sports broadcaster who covers news and sports for CBC Vancouver.

with files from the Canadian Press