Local soccer is alive and well, says the president of West Coast Auto Group Football Club, despite the recent protestations by a group of parents calling themselves the Friends of Golden Ears United Soccer Club.
The Pitt Meadows Soccer Club voted Monday night to formally change their name to the West Coast Auto Group FC, the last step in the amalgamation of the two local soccer clubs.
While parents voted down the final step in the merger last month at Golden Ears United Soccer Club’s special general meeting, despite voting in favour of the merger a year earlier, West Coast Auto Group FC president Chris Begg said the merger is a done deal.
“It’s not going to affect what we’re doing at all,” said Begg. “Because we are in such good standing, we can still move forward regardless.”
The parents and coaches making up the Friends of GEUSC said they were concerned the new club’s staff would be paid salaries that are too high for a non-profit youth soccer club, and said questions regarding the specific salary figures have gone unanswered.
Begg said confidentiality forbids him from releasing specific salary figures, but he said parents have been provided with the salary ranges for the club’s new staff.
“Apparently, that wasn’t good enough,” he said.
The Friends of GEUSC have also expressed concern about a requirement for some elite-level players to take part in mandatory skills academies, and are concerned about the future of grassroots development with the new club.
Begg said the vast majority of parents involved are supportive of the new club’s direction, as is evidenced by the club’s registration numbers. While GEUSC’s assets won’t be transferred to the new club, the club’s real assets – it’s players, coaches, and parents – are already on board.
Registration at the new soccer club has already doubled compared to this time last year, said Begg, and he expects more than 4,200 soccer players to register for the club’s inaugural 2012 season, including close to 700 adult players.
“As far I know, we’re the biggest soccer club in the province,” he said.
Four former GEUSC board members have joined the board of West Coast Auto Group FC, something Begg hopes will give the club representation from Maple Ridge.
“This isn’t a Pitt Meadows club with a new name,” he said. “This is a Ridge-Meadows club.”
The new Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows format for the club will mean West Coast Auto Group FC will be able to field more competitive teams, and offer players more opportunities to climb the development ladder.
“This will allow kids the right teams to play on,” said Begg. “We’re going to have a full compliment of teams at all age groups.”
That will mean fewer players leaving to play elsewhere, or leaving the sport altogether.
The club recently hired Misty Thomas as the West Coast Auto Group FC’s executive director. Thomas is a former Olympian and was general manager for the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team.
The future of GEUSC remains undetermined, however. While the club is holding an annual general meeting April 30 to elect a new executive, the club will need to hold tryouts, and have at least four teams of registered, dues-paid players by June in order to be eligible for league play, according to Shannon Pederson, president of the Alouette District Youth Soccer Association.
“I think what you are going to see is a smaller, diluted club,” she said. “It’s my duty to make sure they are supported, so the kids can play where they like. I just want kids to play soccer, I don’t want parents to fight about it.”