Soccer panel highlights inequality, ethics of youth recruiting

UCCS representatives and the soccer panel kick toward the goal.
Jonathan Toman | The Scribe
Oct. 12, 2015

Jonathan Toman
[email protected]

The last time Jill Ellis was in Colorado Springs, she was 17 and on the soccer field playing Colorado College.

She confessed to the crowd on Oct. 8 at the “From FIFA to the Pitch, the Ethics of Soccer” student workshop that she received a red card, which disqualified her for the rest of the game. This helped to start the conversation on ethics for the event.

UCCS hosted Ellis, along with three other notable soccer figures, as part of a panel that looked at ethics in the sport of soccer.

The panel included Ellis, head coach of the World Cup champion U.S. women’s national team, Fox Sports soccer analyst Eric Wynalda, CEO of Everton soccer team Robert Elstone and Colorado Rapids sporting director Padraig Smith.

Lucas Mendez, a junior psychology major looking to go into sports psychology, attended the panel.

“It was a great talk, I love hearing about it,” he said. “It’s nice to know some of the bigger idols of the sport have a conscience for (ethics).”

The panel was interactive, with audience participants sending in text message answers regarding ethical dilemmas, the results of which were shown to both the audience and panelists.

Joel Delarosa, sophomore sport management major, appreciated the varied backgrounds the panelists brought.

“It was different, definitely a once in a lifetime experience. It makes you think of things differently,” he said. “Every day, no matter what your profession is, you’re going to face ethical challenges.”

The panelists were posed three questions, one of which was: What ethical issues do you encounter in your role in the soccer industry?

Ellis focused on the inequality between women’s and men’s soccer.

The women’s World Cup games over the summer were played on turf fields, while the men’s World Cup in summer 2014 took place on grass.

“There’s no way ever that the men’s world championship would be played on turf,” Ellis said.

Ellis added that Germany received $35 million from FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, for winning the 2014 men’s World Cup, while the U.S. received $2 million for winning the women’s World Cup this summer.

She also mentioned how referees will often think a male assistant coach on a team is the head coach.

Her final point discussed women’s soccer at the youth level, where Ellis said that head coaches, often men, bully players. She explained that she found it odd that parents don’t tolerate similar behavior in boyfriends or teachers, but they do in coaches.

“For some reasons the standards change,” Ellis said. “That environment leaves a lasting impression on young women.”

Ellis is hopeful the results of the U.S. triumph at the World Cup can help lead to changes.

“I hope that resonates throughout our sport,” she said.

Wynalda, who played on the U.S. men’s national team, focused on the issue of diving in soccer. Diving is where players pretend to be fouled by the other team to gain an advantage.

He recalled a story about his Dad who, after seeing Wynalda dive in a game, sat him down and said he wasn’t welcome in his house if he ever saw that again.

Wynalda said he didn’t dive again.

“Some things are considered part of the game but cheating is something you’re never going to be proud of,” he said. “(Diving) has got to go, and it’s going to make the game better when it does.”

Smith focused on maintaining competitiveness in soccer in an age when the amount of money a team has often determines their fate. He elaborated about the Financial Fair Play program under Union of European Football Associations (the governing body of soccer in Europe), which help smaller clubs compete.

Elstone focused on the community work that Everton does, as well as the ethics of the changing world of youth recruiting, which is continuously being done at a younger age.

“It’s a cutthroat world,” he said. “If we don’t (recruit young players) we will lose the best players.”

Ian Ratz, assistant director of the Sport Management program, was pleased with the event.

“(The event) surpassed expectations,” Ratz said. “It was genuine, open conversations that were had.”

Eric Olson, director of the Sport Management program, concluded the panel.

“What we’ve heard today is something we could not bring to the classrooms, this kind of insight,” he said.