SBJ/Sept. 9-15, 2013/Game Changers

Game Changers: Rachel Lewis

Photo: WHITECAPSFC.COM
Lewis, with photos of her boys, led the Whitecaps from a former second-division club to an MLS expansion team in 2011.
Team Leaders
Rachel Lewis
Vancouver Whitecaps | Chief Operating Officer

R
achel Lewis celebrated her 10th anniversary with the Vancouver Whitecaps in August and had plenty to reflect upon with pride. The only female chief operating officer with an MLS franchise, Lewis is credited by team ownership for getting the former second-division club tabbed as an MLS expansion team that began play in 2011.

“It was our goal to play in the best league in North America,” said Lewis, 38, who started her career with the Whitecaps in 2003 in event management and was named COO in 2007. “That first MLS match was an unforgettable moment.”

Over the last year, Lewis formed the Whitecaps’ partnership with the British Columbia government and the University of British Columbia to build the National Soccer Development Centre, where the team began training this season. The Whitecaps are averaging more than 19,000 fans in BC Place, which is scaled to 21,000 for soccer. The club also is looking to qualify for the playoffs for the second straight season. Not bad for a 3-year-old MLS franchise.

“We’re seeing big crowds and an incredible supporters’ culture,” Lewis said. “The focus moves to building a sustainable business model and continuing to upgrade our player development.”

— Christopher Botta

  • Person who had the biggest influence on your career in sports: Whitecaps FC owner Greg Kerfoot. He has provided me with tremendous opportunity and shown unwavering support and belief in me.
  • Woman in sports business you’d most like to meet: Billie Jean King.
  • Best advice you’ve received: Follow your passion.
  • The biggest challenge I face working in the sports business is …: The impact wins and losses have on the business and morale. You have to build a strong fan base and business model that supports the club win or lose.
  • My vision of success is …: Canada becomes a dominant force in world soccer, and I continue to have a happy, healthy family.

“Without Rachel, the Whitecaps wouldn’t be in Major League Soccer today. She did so much of the work, including putting the financials and the ideas together. She really owned it. Rachel doesn’t have to be in the front of the room or banging on a table to get a job done. She’s calm and consistent and well-prepared for any situation. Some people kick the ball in the air. Rachel moves the ball downfield.”

— Jeff Mallett | Co-owner | Vancouver Whitecaps, San Francisco Giants
and Derby County FC

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