Terry Farrell/Earle Couper
Comox Valley Record
The Marine Harvest Upper Island Riptide soccer association has severed ties with a goalie in its U-15 girls’ soccer program, after a dispute regarding sponsorship spiralled out of control.
Goalkeeper Freyja Reed, and her mother, Anissa, are both opponents of fish farming and upon hearing of the soccer association’s sponsorship deal with Campbell River-based Marine Harvest, Anissa sent an email to the Upper Island Riptide, insisting that her daughter would not wear the Marine Harvest logo and asking for details of the sponsorship deal.
The Riptide replied four days later, outlining the sponsorship deal, and offering a full refund of Freyja’s registration money.
Rather than take the offer, the Reeds agreed to discuss the impasse with the association, at which time both sides agreed to a set of rules.
Compromise agreed upon by both sides
The Reeds agreed to stop the derogatory comments made towards Marine Harvest on the sidelines at Riptide games, as well as cease all derogatory comments made regarding the Riptide/Marine Harvest relationship online.
In return, the Riptide agreed to allow Freyja to continue and she would not have to wear any Riptide gear displaying Marine Harvest on it for the 2015-2016 season. The Riptide also acknowledged that Freyja had not consented to the Riptide media release and as such, would not be used in any future press releases (i.e. game recaps, photos, etc.).
The Riptide also agreed that neither Freyja nor Anissa would be asked to participate in any Riptide fundraisers that involve Marine Harvest.
The agreement was adhered to by both sides, until the Reeds broke their silence in a national media interview published Oct. 23, claiming that they had been “muzzled”.
From there the situation snowballed to the point where the Riptide soccer association suspended all activity with the girls’ U-15 program, citing concern for the safety of the players.
On Thursday, Oct. 29, the Reeds were informed that Freyja had been dismissed from the team.
Later that day, Freyja received a $2,000 donation from local fishermen to help her continue her training.
Anissa spoke at the donation presentation, saying the split from the team was not by mutual agreement.
“My belief is that the association doesn’t have a choice right now. I think (Marine Harvest) is buying social licence. Because we’re opposed to that they just couldn’t have my daughter in the association, like part of the Riptide family.”
Sean Arbour, the chair of the Upper Island Riptide Steering Committee, said he feels badly for the young athlete.
“In my mind, the real victim here is Freyja herself, and only because of the pressures of Marine Harvest in her life, the pressures her mother put on her in her life, and I just see this kid struggle with it,” he said.
“In one sentence she will say ‘This is an amazing program’ and then she has to stop [and think] ‘Oh yeah, I can’t say that.’
“You know what I mean? It is a very, very unfortunate situation for everybody. There have been no winners.”
The parting of ways became almost a certainty after a meeting called on Tuesday, Oct. 27 to try and resolve the issue degenerated into parents dropping the F-bomb on her daughter, Anissa said.
While saying she cares about the people she was on the team with, Freyja added there was “definitely very little support at the meeting that was supposed to be to find a solution.
“When we tried to speak they wanted to put a time limit on what we had to say because (they said) it was for them.
“It felt like they wanted everyone to hate us. It was real difficult to be there and try to talk when you’re just being shut down.”
Sponsor claims they were unaware
Ian Roberts, director of public affairs at Marine Harvest Canada, says his company was completely unaware of the entire ordeal until contacted by a CBC reporter.
“The only thing I ever heard was that I got a call from the club saying that there was a parent that doesn’t appreciate our sponsorship and that (the club) had offered her her money back,” said Roberts. “They said ‘she hasn’t taken that offer so hopefully we can work out a compromise.’
“So I said that was great and preferably everyone can get along. Next thing I heard was from CBC National, saying that … a player was being muzzled and was Marine Harvest doing the muzzling.
“I was shocked.”
Arbour said his only motive behind attaining Marine Harvest as a corporate sponsor was for the benefit and ongoing progression of the soccer club.
“Hindsight is 20/20, but to be honest, if I had the chance to do this all over again, I would,” said Arbour.
“You may have an opinion, but there is nothing illegal for us to do what we did, and it’s not illegal for them to do what they did.”
Arbour said to date, the team has not had to forfeit any games. The weekend’s games against Nanaimo were postponed.
He is hopeful that the team will resume play this week.
“Our plan is to have the team up and running again next week, but … they have threatened to now protest all our games,” he said on Friday.
“So if our players and our parents feel that they are being put in a bad spot, we will have to do whatever we can to protect that.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.”