From the Pigeon Loft: An open letter to Bobby Lenarduzzi


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May 25, 2015
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From the Pigeon Loft: An open letter to Bobby Lenarduzzi

Dear Bobby:

Maybe you know me by name, maybe not. We’ve met a couple of times over the years. I’ve been a season ticket holder and a Southsider since 2011. I was a frequent match goer since 2008. I’ve written column about supporter culture on 86 Forever and on AFTN for the past four years. I compose chants and help organize tifo. I’ve had two seasons tickets for the past eight years and next year I’ve decided to let one go.

This is the first time I’ve written to you and perhaps it’s no surprise why you’re hearing from me.

Today was a complete shambles. The inability of the leadership of this club to develop a strong culture and identity was laid bare for all to see. As a supporter I’m completely embarrassed by this and yet I’m also relieved because its about time we had some honesty and transparency and insight into what’s going on.

Vast numbers of supporters and even casual fans now understand that, while the coach and the staff are ultimately the ones who run the day to day dynamics in the dressing room, the buck stops with the senior leadership in the organization. A lot of fingers were pointed today and a lot of blame was allocated and the most disappointing thing about today was that none of the leadership stood up and took responsibility for the mess. I didn’t hear you say “It’s my fault, this rests with me.” I didn’t see leadership. I saw ducking and covering and running away. I saw you blame others and then promise yet again that we aren’t that far away.

Frankly, that was a ridiculous thing to say. No club within sniffing distance of success in this league will have the drama that we witnessed today. Our on field talent isn’t the problem. You might have a Cadillac but you can’t power it with cooking oil.

You admitted the culture was broken, and it is. It’s in tatters. It’s been obvious to anyone with more than a passing interest in the organization that this has been the case since 2016 and probably earlier. Yet, you stood on the smouldering ashes of a disastrous press conference and refused to take your part in it. That is massively disappointing. The leadership of the organization, and by that I mean you, Rachel Lewis, and Greg Anderson, are the ones that should be paying the cost now. It’s time for all of you to go.

I don’t know what your plans are for a new regime, new coaching staff, and new structure. But in the wake of a beautiful celebration of Alphonso Davies, we see now the Achilles heel of the organization, and it goes beyond the dressing room. The motto of “Our All Our Honour” lies cynically shredded on the ground. What are we to believe in as supporters? Who IS this team now beyond a neglected plaything for the owners and a fidget spinner for the front office quant jockeys?

Supporter relations have been a chore forever and have consumed countless tens of thousands of unpaid labour from the supporters groups who work without any compensation – indeed who PAY for their tickets – to manufacture the atmosphere that you have sold for years. We put in way more work than we should, trying to undo the years of damage from ridiculous ticket policies and poorly handled relations from the front office. When we’re not in the stadium we find ourselves having to apologize for supporting a club that is being run on a formula that guarantees failure. The vast majority of my friends who are not in a supporters’ group have dropped their tickets for next year.

I have no more faith in you and your team to deliver the changes we need in the club. I think the best thing you can do now is use the excuse of the onset of the 40th anniversary Soccer Bowl season to announce your retirement and put the focus on the next forty years. Yes we have history to celebrate, but the stain of the last eight years looms too large in our minds. Without a massive change to this club, we will celebrate that anniversary wistfully, with little hope of ever getting to see another Championship here. I think your leadership team needs to step back and let a new team of soccer professionals take this club to the next level. We are being left behind by every other club in our league, in every measure.

The @Southsiders banner that was removed before today's match!

— AFTN (@aftncanada) October 29, 2018

The banner that was hung on Sunday was there to point out the long simmering discontent that many are feeling. That it was so quickly removed before kickoff was a testament to the sensitivity of a front office who was nevertheless fine to leave up a “Fine Lines” banner week after week. Throwing other people under the bus has kept you in your positions, but the veil has fallen away.

Now is the time to for you to leave. As supporters there is nothing you can point to now and say “get behind this.” There is nothing from today to make us proud or optimistic about next year. You’ve lost the trust and goodwill of supporters to give you another chance.

Please. Stand up and take responsibility and then step down.

Do it for all of us. Do it for our honour.

*** This is my personal opinion and is not meant to be taken as the official view of AFTN or the Pigeon Casuals ***

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Jan 9, 2011
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Lenarduzzi needs to go; it has been plain for years. He would be wise to go now while he can still maintain some type of dignity before his reputation gets completely ruined.

No doubt, he deserves credit for being one of the driving forces behind keeping this brand going through the eighties after the collapse of the NASL and the successes that it had through the CSL days in the late 80s and early 90s, as well as steering it through the USL days of the turn of the millennium where the team did not register on any meaningful level with the great majority of local sports fans. It was a niche market back in the day at Swanguard and some great things happened there, which Lenarduzzi, it must be said, played a large role in creating. This, the Whitecaps, are his baby and I get that sentiment. He cared about it when, arguably, almost no one else did. He had dreams of it one day being in MLS and playing in front of 25,000 people weekly and competing in CONCACAF championships and in all those dreams I am sure he always saw himself as the architect.

Unfortunately, dreams do not always play out the way we want them to. This is now bigger than him, he is out of his depth and when the eyes of a whole sporting market, instead of just the local niche, are demanding a better product the spotlight can shine much brighter and there are far fewer places to hide. The ridiculous quote that Waston was talking about "someone else" other than the front office staff as a whole regarding his "two faced" comment was laughable and just underscored his inability to perform the role that this club needs from its leadership.

He should leave now while he can still be remembered for all the good things he accomplished with this organization. It will hurt him to say goodbye, I am sure, but that is nothing compared to how painful it will be when it is ripped away from if he continues to cling on. The die has been cast, this only ends with him leaving. How we get to that point still remains in Lenarduzzi's hands at the moment, but that will soon change, so he would be wise to try and control the narrative while he still can.