VANCOUVER, BC – One of the original U SPORTS-connected clubs in League 1 BC will not participate in the 2024 League 1 BC season.
Nautsa’mawt FC, which rebranded under new ownership in 2023 from its previous “Varsity FC” identity, will fold as a League 1 club ahead of the 2024 season, 49 Sports has learned. The club will not renew its licensing agreement with BC Soccer.
League 1 BC began accepting expansion applications for 2024 and beyond on Nov. 2 via an online form. However, the list of standards clubs need to meet was not included in the information package, as it was in 2022 when Nanaimo’s Harbourside FC joined the league.
Nautsa’mawt FC began as Varsity FC in the inaugural 2022 season of League 1 Canada in British Columbia, owned and operated by UBC Thunderbirds Athletics, with rosters heavily featuring U SPORTS players, complemented by a handful of NCAA standouts.
On Jan. 18, 2023, the Hope and Health For Life Society purchased the club and operated it under the pre-existing licensing agreement with BC Soccer. The target of the new ownership was to create a club for BC’s Indigenous communities and create a further pathway for Indigenous players to compete at a semi-pro level.
UBC Athletics continued to work with Hope and Health to operate the club, with most playing personnel coming from the Thunderbirds programs. At the same time, UBC and Varsity FC head coaches Mike Mosher and Jesse Symons continued coaching under new ownership.
Symons, who has supported Hope and Health for several years, was integral in building the club for its lone season. He has played an essential role in giving Indigenous youth a chance to develop in soccer while also coaching the UBC Women’s Soccer team.The UBC soccer programs will also continue their community connection with Hope and Health, and Indiginous communties, as they have since 2016.
However, while some Indigenous players became contributing factors on Symons’ women’s team, which ranked among the best in the league in 2023, the men’s team did not see significant time given to Indigenous athletes, leading to several leaving the team before seasons’ end.
After making the League 1 BC Final for both genders in 2022, neither side qualified in 2023, with the men’s team failing to qualify for the playoffs. At the same time, they struggled to grab hold of the local communities, playing in front of largely empty crowds throughout the season at Thunderbird Stadium.
Still, the club had lofty goals and stellar sponsorships, with global video game juggernaut EAFC 24 (Formerly EA FIFA) sponsoring the club’s kits. Yet, reports suggest the ownership cannot continue investing in the club in 2024, thus forcing the club to fold.
As for what will happen to the athletes who played with Nautsa’mawt FC, there are potential plans for a core of UBC’s varsity soccer teams to stick together over the summer months, albeit not in a League 1 Canada setup.
Meanwhile, there are plans for the club to stick around at a non League 1 BC level, however those have yet to be confirmed.