Soccer in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will have a new look after the Pitt Meadows and Golden Ears United soccer clubs voted last week to join forces and amalgamate their organizations.
The move will take place for the 2012-13 season, and will create the largest community soccer club in the province, with more than 4,000 participants.
The clubs’ presidents believe the merger will make local teams more competitive, and encourage local players to play locally.
“Having two entities was just not in the best interest of kids,” says Chris Begg, president of the Pitt Meadows Soccer Club. “It was pretty obvious we were splitting talent between the two clubs. Now we’ll be able to field competitive, elite-level teams, and establish a clear development pathway right from the recreational teams.”
The name for the new club hasn’t been decided on yet, as Begg said they are still looking into possible sponsorships.
The merger will mean the clubs will be able to eliminate some redundancies, and make for more efficient use of fields.
“Every other sport in town is Ridge Meadows, we’re the only ones who are split like this,” said Golden Ears United president Kevin Fletcher. “We have such an array of talent here, now we will be able to have some very strong teams.”
Golden Ears United Soccer Club has more than 2,100 players in its ranks, while the Pitt Meadows Soccer Club has 1,850 players registered this year, in a community of just 17,500.
While Begg says the club does attract players from west Maple Ridge, he estimates around 10 per cent of the population of Pitt Meadows is involved in the club in some way.
“We’ve grown a lot in the last few years,” he said. “We’re really passionate about the sport.”
The two clubs field more than 300 teams from tykes to adults.
Other big changes loom for the sport of soccer, not just locally, but provincially as well.
B.C. Soccer and Vancouver Whitecaps have partnered to help develop the EA Sports B.C. Soccer Premier League, which will be modeled after the junior hockey system and B.C. Premier Baseball League.
The league will begin play in March 2012, with eight teams from across the province fielding elite teams in the U-13, U-14, U-15, U-16, and U-17/U-18 levels.
The new league will play from play from February to November, to fall in line with other Canadian provincial soccer programs. The Metro/Select league season, as well as B.C. Soccer club play, will continue to run September to April.
Pitt Meadows and Golden Ears United jointly bid for a franchise in the new league, along with North Coquitlam, Mission and Central City soccer clubs, but were denied earlier this year.
Both Begg and Fletcher hope the merger will help strengthen a future bid for a team.
“Having that pyramid in place is really important,” said Begg. “We don’t want players having to leave town to play competitive soccer.”