Sponsor support ensures youth soccer’s growth
By Don Fennell
Published 12:38 PDT, Mon October 4, 2021
Last Updated: 4:36 PDT, Mon October 25, 2021
Everything you want in life has a price connected to it, Harry Browne once said.
The American writer probably wasn’t thinking amateur sports when he made the declaration, but it applies nevertheless. And that only further magnifies the importance of sponsorship.
To help keep costs down, and to ensure playing youth soccer remains affordable for participants,
Richmond FC is grateful for the strong support it receives from its sponsors—which often goes well beyond what is reasonably expected.
While the association strives to expand programs and concurrently advance the level of instruction, executive director Marius Roevde says having sponsors such as The Gaming Stadium on board as the new club sponsor allows the “growth opportunities” to happen.
“”(The Gaming Stadium) came forward with the largest sponsorship in our club history, and the kids are looking forward to wearing their name on our jerseys,” Roevde says.
He says Richmond FC is equally proud and indebted to its other sponsors as well. This includes a commitment from Go Auto Columbia Chrysler to continue the association’s car lottery; the Coho Commissary, which Roevde says has helped put more kids into soccer than ever before; and Tim Hortons, which will continue to sponsor the youngest players. Hope and Health, a group that hosts camps and various program for Indigenous youth, has also come aboard. A patch on the sleeve of team uniforms will reflect the support for the Indigenous community. Richmond FC has also purchased new orange shirts for away matches to further recognize past abuses at residential schools.
As the 2021-22 season kicks off, Richmond FC continues to follow all provincial health mandates as it has since the pandemic was declared some 18 months ago. Last season, when restrictions meant its teams couldn’t play opponents outside of its “catchment” area, it evolved a “street soccer” program enabling its players of all ages, skill levels, and genders to compete together in shorter matches.
“It was important to us that we get our kids outside after being indoors for so long, and to give them a chance to see their friends, experience new coaches, and to do a little sweating on the field in a safe, exciting environment,” Roevde explains. “We also extended the season into the summer to make up for lost time earlier in the year, something few other clubs offered.”
While the wearing of masks outdoors is not a provincial mandate, Roevde says Richmond FC feels it is in line with best practices to ensure they are worn by everyone, including players, off the field.
No doubt realizing the impact of this summer’s success by the Canadian women’s soccer team, and its winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics, interest in the game has clearly been renewed. And like other associations, Richmond FC is experiencing significant growth. But Roevde believes there’s more fueling the growth at his club.
“Our registration numbers are up this year to well over 1,000, which is in line with expectations,” he says. “A lot of youth sports are facing annual registration declines, but our new technical director David Thorburn worked super hard to reach out beyond our existing member base to bring new kids into the fold. Our summer soccer camps were outrageously popular, to the point where we put extra camps on for a second month, and they drove a lot of new registrations to our development program and recreational programs.”
Richmond FC also introduced a Mini Kickers program for four- and five-year-olds which drew about 100 participants and their parents on Sundays. The club also ran free camps for Tsleil-Waututh children, and is developing a “free football” program with Coho Commissary for kids from families attached to the Richmond Food Bank. It will also be offering Coerver Coaching programs for women and girls later this year.
“One thing we're truly proud of is our new program to 'coach the coaches,' and give our older kids the training, certification, and support for them to make coaching a career when they finish school,” Roevde says. “We already hire (many of) our teen (players) to referee games, but this gives them an entire new career path, and a means of racking up volunteer hours they need for university while learning more about tactics and training. One of our young coaches became the first in Canada to become C-licensed with the Canadian Soccer Association.”