Referees union labels Whitecaps head coach's comments post-game 'disgusting'

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

The Professional Soccer Referees Association called Sartini's post-match comments "disgusting" and that it takes the rhetoric against officials to a "dangerous new level."

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

But Vancouver's players and coaching staff were upset with the decision to award the penalty as well as referee Tim Ford's collision with midfielder Alessandro Schopf in stoppage time, which prevented the Austrian from taking a shot and led to an apparent second goal for Bouanga.

Sartini was sent off for objecting to Ford initially awarding the goal — it was later ruled offside— following the collision with the Whitecaps player, and he labelled the referee's performance "disgraceful" in a press conference afterwards.

He also made a joke about being a suspect if Ford was found dead after the match, which appears to have sparked the pushback from the referees union.

"If they found him in False Creek then I'm going to be a suspect," Sartini said. "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 was upset with his work refereeing the crucial playoff game.

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2023.

The Canadian Press