Sports

Richmond Soccer readies for season

By Don Fennell

Published 3:05 PDT, Tue July 30, 2019

Last Updated: 11:02 PDT, Thu August 15, 2019

With the 2019-20 season soon to kick off, Richmond FC is expanding its reach.

With the 2019-20 season soon to kick off, Richmond FC is expanding its reach.

In what may prove to be a watershed season in the history of the game south of the Fraser, Richmond FC will soon offer indoor leagues for kids across the city. It’s part of a plan to bring the game out of the rain, and closer to the homes of the kids who play it.

When fall registration closes on July 31, late-signing kids looking to play soccer in Richmond for fun and fitness would usually have to rely on a waiting list to get a spot in a team. But after an intense study of Richmond's changing demographics, and the challenges associated with tutoring schedules, families with financial struggles, and the increasing distances families have to travel to local facilities, Richmond FC's board have decided to try something new: the first kids indoor soccer league in Richmond.

Registrations will still be welcome in the club's fall/season competitive program on a waiting list basis after the July 31 cut off, and the spring season house programs, for ages four and up, will continue next season as per usual.

But they'll be joined with a third option—to play on Sunday nights as part of a new indoor program designed to be cheaper and easier to fit alongside school, tutoring, and other sport schedules. Utilizing facilities as far east as Hamilton, the idea is to bring the game to all parts of the city, rather than forcing families to drive west to existing facilities.

“We looked at the numbers and saw a lot of growth in the city out east, along No. 5 Road, in the Cambie area, and of course in City Centre,” says Rein Weber, chair of Richmond FC. “But a lot of families in those areas aren't wealthy, and sometimes struggle to travel long distances to Minoru and Hugh Boyd fields. We do play games at King George but we find a lot of kids in Hamilton, as an example, register for New Westminster and teams in other cities, rather than test traffic west on a weekday afternoon.”

Using Richmond elementary and high school gyms for indoor leagues will allow the club to rely less on artificial turf facilities, which barely exist east of No. 3 Road, and put existing indoor facilities to better use.

 “Trying this out on a Sunday night is an effort to work around tutoring schedules, which often make it hard for some of our immigrant families, who make use of education programs on Saturday and weeknights, to take part. That's a cultural difference in Richmond that a lot of our competitor teams don't experience, but it's up to us to adapt to the needs of the kids in our area, not the other way around.”

In recent years, Richmond FC has welcomed locall youth academies, which don't play competitive games due to scheduling reasons, on Saturday afternoons instead of the traditional morning game time. That's a step forward, but the club realizes it has to do more if it's going to truly provide soccer for all the kids who want it.

Says Weber, “There's a massive number of kids in our city who'd love to play the sport, but if we don't offer them an easier way to do that, a cheaper way to do that, and more convenient way—we'll lose them to other things. Our hope is that by coming to them, on their terms, we can welcome them into indoor soccer and inspire a love of the game that compels them to represent our city in the outdoor leagues down the road.”

In addition, Richmond FC has also begun elementary school programming, to bring the game to even more kids, with a focus on schools in the east. A recent effort to split the spring season between east and west facilities was hampered by a lack of city facilities being available.

“Kids in Hamilton, they really don't get a lot of the same opportunities kids get in west Richmond,” says Weber. “The city fields at Minoru are amazing and the city is updating the turf at Hugh Boyd this summer, and we've long talked about building a clubhouse there, which has been bounced around from committee to city to the backburner for years. But none of that helps a kid in East Richmond who'd love to play in Richmond blue against teams from other cities right now. So we're going to try to meet them beyond halfway. We're coming to a street near them this winter.”

Richmond FC registration for kids aged four through 18 is open now for the fall/winter outdoor season. Indoor sign-ups will happen later in the year when facilities have been confirmed by the city and schedules are completed. Fees associated with the indoor season will be break-even for RFC, in an effort to keep costs as low as possible for all families.

Kids wanting to play the outdoor game should register today by visiting www.richmondfc.ca

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