Children's soccer club hires security firm after parents rage against COVID-19 rules
Some parents have berated contact tracers trying to take their information at games, club chair says
A children's soccer club in Chilliwack, B.C., has hired a private security firm to supervise its games after it said family members unhappy with contact tracing and limited crowd sizes began lashing out at staff on the sidelines.
Chilliwack FC published a notice to parents Tuesday night saying abuse and poor behaviour toward club staff has escalated to the point where workers are afraid it's going to turn violent.
"They're very abusive, verbally," club chair Andrea Laycock said of some players' family members. "Fortunately, nothing physical yet, but given the vibe and frustrations people have, we can see it escalating to that."
The club is running a partial fall season for kids between the ages of four and nine. The club hired its own team of contact tracers to take spectators' information when they arrive, so they can pass information along to provincial health authorities if an outbreak happens.
Laycock said some family members have exploded over being asked for their information.
"We've had people come up to the contact tracers' table and say, 'I'm bleeping fine, I don't need this, you don't need my information,' " she said.
"They roll their eyes, say, 'this is ridiculous,' they scream and they yell."
WATCH | Club chair Andrea Laycock describes how a contact tracer was left in tears by abuse:
Under an approved health and safety plan, spectators are asked to wear a mask when they're walking through narrow entry and exit points. Game-day crowds are limited to just one family member per player.
"When we say, 'Unfortunately, we're at our capacity, we can't let you in.' ... Of course, that escalates," Laycock said.
Adults could be banned from field
The club hired the private security firm this month to periodically "sweep the area" while kids play on the weekends, checking for any disturbances from family. Contact tracers can call security if they need help.
No one has been kicked out of a game over their behaviour, but staff feel that isn't far off.
"Our next step would be one none of us ever want to go to, and that would be banning parents from the field," Laycock said. "'OK parents, you can't behave, it's time to stay home.' "
"We understand and empathize this is very difficult for people. It's new for all of us. But again, that's not a reason to treat people badly."
Chilliwack is part of the Fraser Health area, where new cases of COVID-19 are climbing at a higher rate than anywhere else in B.C. Just over 80 per cent of more than 800 new cases reported over the weekend were from the region, despite it accounting for less than 40 per cent of the provincial population.
"That is our only ask of these people," Laycock continued, referring to contact tracing. "God forbid should something happen, we want to be able to provide the authorities with the necessary information."
The toll on the not-for-profit club has been both emotional and financial.
"It's probably the most challenging thing our executive has ever been through," Laycock said. "Our biggest fear is — with all that's going on, with the numbers escalating — that we're not going to have the kids on the field ... and everybody needs sport."
With files from Meera Bains