Whitecaps coach Sartini suspended six games for on-field actions, post-game comments

Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini has been suspended a total of six games for his on-field actions and the post-game comments he made about refereeing after his team's MLS playoff elimination.

Sartini called referee Tim Ford's performance "disgraceful" and made a joke about being a suspect if Ford was found dead following the 1-0 loss to Los Angeles FC on Nov. 5 at B.C. Place Stadium.

In the 95th minute, Sartini was shown a red card and dismissed from the game by match officials.

Along with the automatic one-match suspension that accompanies a red card, Major League Soccer tacked on an additional five-game ban for multiple violations including entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and public criticism following the match.

Sartini was also issued a US$20,000 fine and ordered to complete a league-approved behavioural assessment.

“As I shared at our end-of-season media conference, I am deeply sorry for my actions on the field, as well as my poor choice of words. I know that it is not easy to be a match official. This was not a good reflection of the respect that I have for the work that they do, so for that, again, I am sorry," Sartini said in a release.

The union representing North American soccer referees blasted Sartini's comments, calling them "disgusting" and that it took the rhetoric against officials to a "dangerous new level."

Sartini apologized for his comments during the Whitecaps end of season media availability and said he had reached out to MLS' professional referee organization.

"I'm sorry, there was no malicious intent," Sartini said at the time. "I could've done much better and I'm sorry for that."

Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said the league had launched a review into the game's ending, specifically about the behaviour of its players and staff.

He says the club has also launched its own internal review of the situation as well.

Vancouver goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka, defender Ranko Veselinovic, midfielder Ryan Gauld and forward Simon Becher were also issued undisclosed fines for inciting and, or, escalating a mass confrontation.

Vancouver assistant coaches Youssef Dahha and Michael D’Agostino as well as players Luís Martins, Ali Ahmed and Javain Brown were fined an undisclosed amount for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner, during a confrontational incident. 

Defender Mathias Laborda has also been issued a one-match suspension and an undisclosed fine.

Sartini 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. 30, 2023.

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