Barber’s loss comes as a shock and a disappointment

December 11, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2011 | 2 Comments

"Come to think of it, I'd rather be somewhere else"

All of us are entitled to a vacation, and I have been off in the Hawaiian Islands experiencing the sea turtles, dolphins, whales and many beautiful species of fish they have in that part of the world. The problem is, while I was off larking about in the surf and sun, seismic shifts occurred within the Vancouver Whitecaps. Changes too numerous to catch up with for a blogger caught with his swimming trunks down.

The biggest announcement for me was that Paul Barber is going to leave the club in February 2012. I must say, of all of the announcements, this one really impacted me, and it hurt.  Why, I can’t exactly explain, but I think part of my reaction was that of a supporter who loves his team so much that he can’t imagine another person not wanting to be a part of it.  I also think that Barber’s previous experience in English football at one of its top clubs, Tottenham Hotspur, gave me the confidence that we had a person in charge who had operated a club at a very high level of football, and who knew both the business and the football side of running a club.

Part of the disappointment I have with the Barber announcement is that he did not stick around to help the club to enjoy football success as well as business success.  There is no doubt that as club CEO, Barber contributed greatly to a club which is the envy of almost all of the teams in Major League Soccer. The sponsorship deals Barber negotiated are among the best in the league, if not the best.  But the business side of football is only part of the package; the other part is what happens on the pitch.  Barber leaves the team as a kind of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde figure, who brought the team financial stability and success on the one hand, but abysmal failure on the pitch.  Why he wouldn’t want to stay on and sort out the latter part of the Whitecaps’ performance is beyond me.  I think his actions demonstrate a lack of commitment to what the real goal of football is: success on the pitch. When Barber came to the club, I certainly got the impression that he was in it for the long haul, with a goal of bringing the team football success.   He has left after only one losing MLS season. Sadly, Barber’s announcement reflects an easy come, easy go attitude that has become a part of football. It stands in stark contrast to those of us who have had our hearts in the team since the 1970’s, and certainly is pathetic in comparison to our club’s rock of ages, Bob Lenarduzzi.

Given the official statements from Barber and the club have been tightly controlled trivial sentiments which say virtually nothing, we supporters are left in the dark as to what the real story is.  We can then be forgiven for having to speculate.

It could be that Barber’s family did not settle well in Vancouver.  If this was the reason, then I would certainly understand: family comes first.  It could be his compensation package was poor in his eyes, and he thinks he can do better elsewhere.  It could be that Barber and the Whitecaps ownership group could not agree on how to compensate him in the future.  Perhaps there was an unreconcilable difference respecting how to run the club. It could be that Barber thinks he has grown the team as much as he can as a business and that the football side of things does not interest him as much as the business side.

My feeling is that Barber’s loss leaves a big hole in the organization.  While the club has said that Bob Lenarduzzi and Rachel Lewis will take over his duties, will the deputies be able to run the town in the same manner as the outgoing Sheriff?  All credit to Lenarduzzi and Lewis, but they don’t quite have the same stature and experience as Barber at the highest levels of the sport.  Neither has the élan which comes from having been a high executive at a major club like Tottenham Hotspur.

Who knows how long the Whitecaps ownership group will be willing to let Lewis and Lenarduzzi run the ship between them from here on.  There is no doubt the two have talent. On the soccer side, Lenarduzzi is a proven winner at club football as a player, coach and club president.  Rachel Lewis is one of British Columbia’s top young business stars.  It may now be her time to really shine.

There is no doubt Lenarduzzi and Lewis have some very big shoes to fill.  As a supporter of the club, I must say that Barber’s leaving the club at this time is a shock and a disappointment.

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  1. Hi, having had a few brief correspondances with paul barber, he stated that the shift to the mls was more” difficult than anticipated”. He, unlike his counterparts in seattle,portland…people of a lower “pedigree” than his epl background, completely underestimated the pace/talent of the mls…and failed miserably. The attendance would have been there if sparky-the-wonder dog was ceo…vancouver was ready for the mls…paul barber wasnt ready…they can spin it anyway they want..he was captain of the worst expansion team since chivas…glad he left. Now if soehn leaves we may be able to revive the tradition of winning, the organization was solid before the barber/soehn circus came to town and we will be again.

  2. True enough that Barber, as CEO, has to take responsibility for the poor showing on the pitch. But I also feel he has the leadership skills to put the situation right, but perhaps not the will and determination. I would have thought a man of his stature would want to put things right before bailing out, just as a matter of personal pride. I do agree with your comments on Soehn, and perhaps Barber’s and the club’s mistake was giving Soehn too much power. Why he is still here I do not know…


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