Should Vancouver Have Been Forced to Forfeit?

Empire under the moon

Empire Field during a better evening. Photo by Mufae

Forfeits are usually a term for CYO soccer when a team doesn’t have the requisite ten players or there aren’t enough oranges for halftime.  Rarely does the terminology enter a debate in professional sports, where the money and resources are available to shift matches around based on inclement weather.  But after the postponement of the Vancouver Whitecaps match against Real Salt Lake, Jason Kreis raised the “f” word and raised even more interesting questions about whether such an option should exist in MLS.

Saturday’s regular season match between the two clubs was postponed after torrential rainfall essentially flooded Empire Field’s temporary grass pitch.  The temporary pitch had been installed in anticipation of the ‘Caps match against Manchester City today as part of their North American tour, but that temporary pitch could not drain the massive amounts of rain received in Vancouver by Saturday.  The pitch, however, will be ready for tonight’s game.

Setting aside the fact for now that an MLS club jeopardized a league match for a friendly, the decision to not play was the right one and no one disagrees with that.  But RSL coach Jason Kreis had an interesting quote following the postponement in the Salt Lake Tribune. When asked about the situation, he said “there is a leg to stand on for saying that it could be a forfeit because [Vancouver] is responsible for providing a playing surface that we can play on. With decisions to play international friendlies could come some accountability for what that is going to mean for your league games.”

The sentiment behind the quote is that RSL’s Saturdays are filled until October, right before the MLS playoffs.  The free date, October 8, is also a FIFA reserved date so RSL players could be missing for a make-up.  The other option is a midweek match, which will likely be the result and add to RSL’s schedule congestion.  Remember, they still have five games in hand over Seattle since they are still making up for the CONCACAF Champions League run.

Does Kreis has a valid complaint?  Yes.  Vancouver essentially gambled that redoing its for a meaningless friendly would hold up for the MLS game as well, and they lost the gamble.  As a result, they are culpable for the fact that the game could not be played and should be punished for it.  However, I don’t think the punishment should be a forfeit.  To allow a game to be forfeited due to field conditions would set a bad precedent for the league.  At what point are the Whitecaps responsible for the weather?  It is almost like saying FC Dallas is responsible for the 100 degree heat at kickoff for their match against DC this weekend.  Teams can only do so much to make games playable, but it is ultimately out of their hands on the weather behaving.  As such, the league should punish Vancouver but not with a forfeiture.

But what do you think?

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