soccer@tss.ca
1751 Savage Road, Richmond, BC

Rethinking BC Soccer

Recently, the British Columbia Soccer Association (BCSA) has been requesting its members to complete a feedback survey. As an Associate Member of the BCSA, I wish to oblige and provide some written feedback. Given the longstanding disagreements between our academy and the BCSA, I've given a good deal of thought to not only how the BCSA conducts its affairs, but to the very purpose of the Association. The Webster Dictionary defines an association as "an organization of persons with a common interest." In general, an association promotes a particular field of interest by engaging in activities such as holding conferences, producing publications, and providing networking opportunities for its members. If you read the BCSA Constitution, the purpose of the Association is stated at the top of the very first page. It reads "To foster, develop and promote the game of soccer, in all its branches, in the Province of British Columbia." It further states that the Association is "to generally provide whatsoever other assistance is available to support and encourage the game of soccer in British Columbia." For those who've been helping develop and grow the game in BC for the last 10-20 years, there's likely a consensus that the BCSA has often contradicted this stated purpose by attempting to control and even restrict the operation of soccer in this province.

If you've ever read through the BC Soccer Rules and Regulations, you will be struck by the level of detail this 48 page document covers. There are rules about the transfer of players, the length of a playing season, permits, poaching, age limits, zones. These rules even dictate a maximum roster size for different age groups. How is it that our provincial association has come to wade into all the details of playing soccer in this province? If I joined the Graphic Design Association of BC, this association would surely not dictate to me how I was to apply design principles to my work. Likely the Graphic Design Association of BC (if it existed) would simply promote the field of graphic design by providing professional development opportunities, publishing educational materials, and raising the overall awareness of the graphic design field. So why has the BCSA taken on the role of soccer czar in this province, mandating which leagues can operate, which members can join, which players can play, and which seasons must be followed? I believe the answer to this question is rooted in an association that mistakenly believes it must "run" soccer in this province rather than "enable" soccer in this province. This misconception has also been spurred by the soccer community itself through its repeated criticism of the BCSA for failing to "fix" soccer in this province. But this criticism is unfounded because the BCSA should not be mandated to "fix" soccer. The responsibility of addressing our deficiencies in the game should rest solely on the shoulders of the soccer clubs and academies. The BCSA should definitely provide leadership in the form of coach training, player development education, etc. but the implementation and organization of soccer should reside with the clubs and academies. The BCSA should focus solely on membership, education, and advocacy for the sport.

This would necessitate a number of changes for the BCSA:

1) Dismantle the Provincial Program in its current form. Let leagues assemble "all star" teams if need be.

2) No more provincial cup competitions run by the BCSA. That would allow the Association to purge all its endless rules on player transfers, playing seasons, permits, etc. All those rules should exclusively reside with the leagues themselves. If some leagues wish to organize an inter-league competition to determine a provincial champion, that would be at their discretion.

3) Clubs and academies can be direct members of the BCSA. Youth districts can also continue to be members if they wish.

4) Geographical zoning restrictions (if required) are mandated by leagues, not the BCSA.

5) No restriction of leagues. The BCSA would sanction leagues and ensure that they meet certain standards but they would not limit their existence. If a few clubs and/or academies wish to form a league, it should be completely within their right to do so. Playing soccer should be a fundamental right of any BCSA member.

6) Participation within leagues is at the discretion of each league. The BCSA should not be dictating or determining which members can participate in certain leagues.

With these changes, the BCSA would immediately change from controller to enabler as it relates to soccer in this province. While this may seem radical to some, it is perfectly in keeping with how many associations operate, whether they be soccer associations or otherwise. If you look at the Saskatchewan Soccer Association, you will see an organization that focuses largely on membership rather than meddling in the affairs of its members. For example, there is no association restriction on league access whether they be clubs or academies. If any restrictions exists, such as geographical zoning, they are mandated by the league itself and not the Association. Even associate members enjoy all the same benefits as active members such as league access.

It's time to rethink the role of the British Columbia Soccer Association. After all, the BCSA is nothing more than a construct created by its members. By freeing the BCSA from the needless task of running provincial teams, organizing countless provincial cup competitions, and policing endless rules, we would enable the BCSA to focus on the true purpose of an association: to educate and empower its members through such areas as coaching certification, player development education, referee training, etc. By expecting the BCSA to "fix" the game in this province, we as clubs and academies create the conditions whereby soccer falls into a bureaucratic morass. This bureaucracy only serves to disempower the members from devising timely and creative programming solutions for its players. Reforming the BCSA from controller to enabler allows the organizations that actually deliver soccer programming to discover their own solutions. Imagine a soccer community free to join forces at any time to create development opportunities as it sees fit. Yes, that's right, a soccer community free to play soccer. Imagine that.

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Brendan Quarry
Director of Girls Program
TSS Academy

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