Elite athletes face discipline for assaults, bullying

Three members of Yukon’s elite Firth Rangers soccer squad face suspensions after assaulting and terrorizing teammates during two Outside…

Three members of Yukon’s elite Firth Rangers soccer squad face suspensions after assaulting and terrorizing teammates during two Outside tournaments.

Several 14-year-old boys bound a teammate’s hands and feet and wrapped him in cellophane, scribbling obscene messages on his skin, spraying him with water and filling his ears with toothpaste. They also kept the youth from sleeping in his hotel room bed while the team competed in a Labour Day tournament in Langley, BC.

During practices in the leadup to the nationals in Charlottetown, PEI, the ringleaders continued to taunt their teammate, warning him of what was to come.

They continued their hazing of the youth in Charlottetown, and they widened their bullying to include two players called up from a younger team to shore up the Rangers’ ranks.

The incidents happened after midnight, and were not caught by the coach or chaperones accompanying the team.

The parents of the three children who were bullied and abused want players involved in the incident suspended for a year. They also want Ranger volunteer coach Bruce Thomson suspended.

“This guy was with the team,” said one parent. “Don’t tell us he doesn’t know who the troublemakers are.

“We want to send the message this is not acceptable. The children should be able to go on a trip and feel safe.”

Thomson refused comment.

“There’s nothing I can say,” he said. “The YSA (Yukon Soccer Association) is looking into it and has come up with a set of recommendations and actions. I can’t comment.

“But it’s unfortunate only one side of the story is getting told.”

While three players were directly involved in the multiple hazings in Charlottetown, other players witnessed the events. Some took pictures with their cellphones. Others simply watched and failed to intervene.

The Yukon Soccer Association set up a three-person panel to investigate the affair. Outgoing president Brian Gillen, Geoff Woodhouse and Ed Van Randen sit on that panel.

The investigation is 99 per cent complete, said Woodhouse in an interview on Monday.

The parents of the three players who were assaulted by their teammates met with the panel on Sunday at the Sport Yukon boardroom at 1 p.m.

One parent was dismayed at how vague the investigators were about the possible penalties.

In a conversation, they worried the team’s bullies had managed to downplay the seriousness of the incident.

The bullies are well-known Whitehorse athletes.

The fact these youth are talented has nothing to do with the investigation, said Woodhouse.

“The significance of the athletes isn’t the issue,” he said. “The issue is the significance of the events, and what the balance is.

“If I sound vague, I am being vague. The process is still going on and hasn’t finished yet.”

The panel has consulted the Canadian Soccer Association about how to handle the situation.

That national association is looking into the affair, said Gillen. The process is nearing completion, he said.

“We are coming very, very close to the end of our review of what happened, and that’s all I’m saying,” said Gillen on the weekend.

“We don’t have a whole bunch of experience in dealing with this kind of situation up here,” said Woodhouse.

“Unfortunately,” there have been similar situations in other Canadian jurisdictions, he added.

“They (the national association) said we’re doing the right thing, and doing it quickly.”

The local investigation is 99 per cent complete.

“I can’t give a timeline,” said Woodhouse. “We’re meeting with a number of people.”

The investigation panel met with the team at the Canada Games Centre at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The panel’s decision on what penalties, if any, will be handed out is expected by the end of the week.

In the last two years, several players resigned from the Rangers. Some cited harassment as the cause.

The team nearly foundered. And recently it was forced to recruit players from a younger team.

In Charlottetown, there were 17 youth on the U14 team.

At the nationals, the Rangers won the tournament’s Fair Play award.

With files from Tom Patrick.

Contact Richard Mostyn at

rmostyn@yukon-news.com

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