Coastal FC girls hold a practice at South Surrey Athletic Park last fall. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Coastal FC girls hold a practice at South Surrey Athletic Park last fall. (Aaron Hinks photo)

‘Club-only’ play caveat ‘gutted people’ after restart excitement: Coastal FC executive director

South Surrey soccer club was under impression that games would be allowed throughout travel region

Though most Surrey and White Rock sports organizations reacted with cautious optimism and excitement to the restart plan announced by the provincial government Tuesday, one South Surrey association is left feeling a little confused and deflated.

The four-step plan announced by the province promises indoor team games for all-ages, but no spectators, by June 15, and spectators for outdoor sports (up to 50 people) allowed by then, too. By July 1, limited spectators for indoor sports could be allowed, and a return to “normal” sports competitions promised by Sept. 7.

Effective immediately, local team games and practices are allowed – with contact – but no spectators.

And while Coastal FC members initially joined the chorus of excitement – social media was ablaze with Surrey-area organizations reacting positively – the club’s executive director said the good vibes were short-lived once they were told by viaSport and BC Soccer that the promise of ‘local’ games still meant teams could only play within their own clubs, rather than face rivals from across the region.

“Obviously, the news conference happened and (the province) announced what seems like a very favourable restart plan across most sectors, and with sports, being able to start having contact in games right away was encouraging,” Coastal FC executive director Chris Murphy told Peace Arch News Wednesday.

“There was constant reference to games being allowed locally, but there was no scope or definition of ‘local.’ And when viaSport said it meant within your club, that kind of gutted people.

“There’s been a lot of patience, waiting for this moment, and that was all kind of deflated when we got that definition.”

• READ ALSO: 50 people expected to be allowed to attend B.C. sports games this summer

Murphy made sure to note that his frustration lies with how the specifics were communicated – from the provincial health office down through provincial sports organizations like BC Soccer and then filtered further to individual associations – and he doesn’t have any problems with the provincial mandate itself, if indeed health authorities have determined club-only play is the best option at present.

“The news was actually really, really positive. I think everyone was really excited. We immediately perceived that – and I know other clubs did as well – as, ‘OK, we’re playing games against other teams this weekend, let’s go.’ But then we got that wet blanket from viaSport,” he said.

“We thought that local would mean travel region, as it has for a lot of things lately, but apparently it isn’t, and we don’t really know whose decision that was. If it was PHO’s decision, then that’s fine – they’re the authority, they’re living this situation 24/7. But if it’s viaSport’s interpretation of the PHO using the term local, that would be hard to understand, and really hard to take.”

A memo from BC Soccer to individual organizations notes that “ViaSport has advised that ‘local’ is currently defined as ‘in club.’”

In the meantime, Murphy said Coastal FC teams would be playing on local fields this weekend, playing against one another while they await further clarification on what other associations they’re allowed to play, if any.

Other South Surrey organizations have not yet publicly expressed the same concerns regarding how far-reaching the new restart plan will be.

Maureen de St. Croix, from Ocean Athletics Track Club, told PAN that a return to multi-club meets would be “fantastic, just fantastic” while noting that she did not expect track events to expand beyond smaller regional events until 2022.

Ocean Athletics’ home track at South Surrey Athletic Park will be unavailable to them throughout the summer regardless, due to a track-resurfacing project that is expected to last from June until September, but de St. Croix was excited for the autumn, when Stage 4 of the province’s restart plan will be in effect.

A multi-team meet to celebrate the track’s re-opening would be an ideal way to mark the occasion, she noted.

“We’ve got a long way to go before getting to that stage, but I think there will be a lot of celebration in the fall. It’s been a long time.”

Semiahmoo Minor Hockey – which will be starting its next season in the fall – posted a note on its Facebook page celebrating the fact that hockey will be back, using the hashtags #gameon and #cantwait.

The Cloverdale-based Surrey United soccer club, meanwhile, noted that “we are very excited about today’s PHO update and are fully committed to the Restart Plan.”

“We will need some time for due diligence as we connect with the City of Surrey and BC Soccer to ensure permits and ViaSport requirements are lifted in parallel and understood… Until further notice all practice restrictions from the last month will stay in effect,” the post continued.

– with files from Tom Zillich

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