The planned merger of two local soccer clubs fell through last week after members of one side voted it down.
Golden Ears United and Pitt Meadows soccer clubs were to combine to form West Coast Auto Group FC. It would have had close to 4,000 participants and more than 300 teams, making it the largest community soccer club in the province.
At a special meeting last Wednesday, parents calling themselves the Friends of Golden Ears Soccer voted against a motion that would have seen the local club dissolve and transfer its assets to West Coast Auto Group FC.
Mike Smith, a parent and coach with GEUSC, helped to found Friends of Golden Ears Soccer after questions about finances and structure of the new club went unanswered.
“Initially, I was for the merger … but under its current form, I think it is a very bad idea,” said Smith, who is a management consultant. “The bottom line is that the way it’s being run is very closed, and not transparent.”
Smith said parents and coaches are concerned the new club’s staff would be paid salaries that are too high for a non-profit youth soccer club, and questions regarding the specific salary figures have gone unanswered.
“We don’t know how much anyone is making, because they won’t tell us,” he said. “There’s an opportunity for a lot of money to change hands. It’s important that this process is transparent.”
Smith said he plans on running for a seat on the GEUSC’s executive at its annual general meeting later this month.
He said parents are also upset at a requirement for some elite-level players to take part in mandatory skills academies, which cost extra, and are concerned about the future of grassroots development with the new club.
“There’s a lot of questions that haven’t been answered,” said Smith.
Current GEUSC president Kevin Fletcher hopes to discuss the failed merger more with member parents.
“It’s no secret that I’m a proponent of the merger, and I believe there’s still potential for a single club in Ridge-Meadows in the future,” he said. “But I’m here to represent everyone in Golden Ears. I just want to make sure we have viable soccer in our area.”
Both Fletcher and Smith agree the merger would have allowed a single local soccer club to field more competitive teams.
“Right now, both clubs have silver-level teams with gold-level and bronze-level kids playing for them,” Fletcher said. “This way we could have gold-, silver-, and bronze-level teams, and kids could play in their skill level.”
A single local club would have also had a better chance of landing a new franchise in the newly formed High Performance League.
Fletcher said the two clubs could still amalgamate down the road, as long as parents’ concerns have been addressed.
Smith agrees, but said parents will need to be included in the amalgamation process for that to happen.
“But it’s nothing that can’t be fixed, with a little effort,” he said.
As a result of the vote, GEUSC will be fielding teams this season under their own banner, and the club is now scrambling to organize tryouts.
Fletcher said he expects some soccer families to move to West Coast Auto Group FC anyways, despite the merger falling through.
“West Coast will have more to offer based on their positioning,” said Fletcher.
The soccer club announced the appointment of Misty Thomas last week as the club’s executive director. Thomas is a former Olympian, and was general manager for the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team.
Smith said many of the coaches he’s talked to have told him they are losing players to Mission and elsewhere, because they don’t want to deal with the politics and uncertainty.
“They just want to play soccer,” he said.