VANCOUVER, BC – Amidst the first League 1 BC season and a year that features Canada’s first FIFA Men’s World Cup appearance in 36 years, soccer on Canada’s Pacific coast might come to a screeching halt.
BC Soccer and Canada Soccer, the sanctioning bodies for the sport in British Columbia, are caught in a disagreement on voting structures. A new Canada Soccer mandate could force a suspension on BC Soccer, with the provincial body not complying.
The forefront issue is the voting split between the adult and youth members of BC Soccer.
Currently, there is a 50-50 split in voting power between the adult and youth members. However, Canada Soccer seeks a more equitable voting structure, which takes into consideration the 95,000 youth players in the province compared to the 15,000 adult players.
BC Soccer’s proposed change would give one vote to every organization with 2,500 registered players. In addition, this revised voting structure would see an approximately 75-25 split between the adult and youth leagues, effectively stripping adult members of their power.
On June 1, BC Soccer held a special general meeting with its members to determine a potential resolution to the voting structure and an amendment to its bylaws, but the members defeated the attempt. Currently. BC Soccer is the only provincial and territorial body with a 50-50 structure.
“This puts the organization in a very difficult situation and not one we want to be in,” says BC Soccer president Gayle Statton. “We want to support all of our members, but we feel it is important that the whole BC Soccer membership understands the ramifications and consequences.”
While voting structures that do not reflect player numbers are normal in world soccer, with all FIFA confederations holding the same amount of votes, it is not where Canada Soccer, FIFA’s regional representative, wants to see the game in the country.
Potential suspension looming, U SPORTS impacted
With Canada Soccer mandating the change, and BC Soccer’s members’ firm stance, the national body could suspend sanctioned soccer in the province. However, there is little indication of how severe the suspension may be. At the most extreme sanctioned activity outside of Major League Soccer, MLS Next Pro and the Canadian Premier League could be put on hold for the foreseeable future.
A blanket suspension of the organization would include league play, tournament play, tournament travel, and the availability of referees. Additionally, all coaching and officiating education would be put on hold.
“Really everything we know about soccer in British Columbia wouldn’t be able to occur,” BC Soccer Executive President Jason Elligott said. “Even down to club training.”
A blanket suspension of BC Soccer would likely force the end of the League 1 BC season, set to wrap up Aug. 1. Meanwhile, the upcoming Canda West U SPORTS teams would be impacted, despite their status as associate members.
Without referees provided by BC Soccer, Canada West matches would not be able to be played. Concurrently, all training would be put on hold, while UVic, UNBC, and TRU underwent further suspensions due to their current membership status.
If the suspension hits U SPORTS and lasts until November, it could force the postponement or re-location of the U SPORTS Men’s Soccer Championships, set for Kamloops and the TRU Wolfpack.
If not a blanket suspension from the national body, BC Soccer could suspend sanctioning for its adult members, therefore allowing youth members to continue playing.
According to clause 4.4 of the BC Soccer bylaws, regarding suspension and/or expulsion of a member; BC Soccer’s board could suspend a member if it “repeatedly violates the bylaws, rules and regulations, Judicial Code and Policies, other Polices, decisions and/or directives of BC Soccer and/or the statutes, bylaws, regulations, directives and decisions of Canada Soccer or FIFA”.
BC Soccer could also hold a second Special General Meeting to re-evaluate the voting structure and work towards a solution. Still, there is a likelihood that the structure would be defeated by a member vote a second time. So, for now, BC Soccer remains in a holding pattern as it waits for word from Canada Soccer.
Quebec was the last province to suffer such a suspension from Canada Soccer. In 2013, the provincial body came under severe scrutiny as they looked to restrict turban-wearing Sikhs from the pitch.
Ultimately, soccer in BC will reach a resolution, but a potential suspension would likely be indefinite until this solution is made. From the adult member’s perspective, giving up control and voting power is far from desirable, but there will likely have to be a compromise at some point in the near future.
In the first year with soccer back from pandemic restrictions, and in summer in the leadup to Canada’s first Men’s World Cup appearance in 36 years, a red card to BC Soccer and the game on the west coast would be catastrophic.