Thousands of young soccer players could find themselves sidelined this season thanks to a power struggle between the adult organizers of a British Columbia league.
A pair of youth soccer associations in Surrey, B.C., has suspended the Central City Breakers Football Club while they investigate allegations of financial impropriety. The club has 2,800 members all under 18 years old.
The Surrey Metro Soccer Association and the South District Girls' Soccer Association said they've received reports that the embattled club broke the rules by funnelling money to a summer league not sanctioned by BC Soccer.
But Garry Sangha, the outgoing Central City Breakers' executive chairman, said the interim suspension, imposed on July 27, boils down to other clubs vying for access to the area's up-and-coming players, along with their registration dollars.
"The district is made up of competitive clubs,'' he said. "So someone's loss is always someone's gain — it basically comes down to that.''
Sangha described the club as an "up-and-coming powerhouse'' and "a force to be reckoned with.''
BC Soccer rules stipulate that its members may not participate in unapproved leagues or events.
"Everybody who's involved under the umbrella of BC Soccer and all of our membership agree to play together,'' said Jason Elligott, executive director of the sport's provincial governing body.
"It's just a big club of soccer and everybody is all part of the same family.''
But Sangha said he wants BC Soccer to overturn the suspension immediately.
Either way, the impact won't be felt until the season kicks off next month, when the suspension would bar club teams from participating in any BC Soccer-sanctioned event.
Besides financial mismanagement, some former board members allege Central City Breakers' directors manipulated voter eligibility at the club's recent annual general meeting in a bid to hold on to power.
The board allegedly changed the membership date to deprive hundreds of gathered members of their voting rights, explained past president Dave McEwan, who was kicked off the board at this year's AGM.
"I've never seen any club in Surrey like this,'' said McEwan. "It's becoming a personal power struggle.''
McEwan has been involved in Surrey's youth soccer scene for the past 18 years.
"If they had let the proper members in to vote, this board would have been ousted in a heartbeat,'' he said.
The momentum was there to remove them, agreed former board member Amar Bains. He described the lineup of parents snaking around the AGM's building the day of the meeting.
Bains registered a complaint with the two district associations over the incident.
"They ran an AGM that was illegal,'' he said. "How can you run an AGM when you're blocking out your old members?
"At the end of the day it's sad to see that group has done so much to keep control of Central City Breakers.''
Surrey Metro Soccer Association chairman Shaheem Ali declined comment. The South District Girls' Soccer Association could not be reached for comment.
A hearing before the South District Girls' Soccer Association is scheduled for Aug. 11, followed by another hearing with the Surrey Metro Soccer Association two days later. The club may appeal the results of each to BC Soccer.
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