Saanich girls soccer team banned from playoffs over 'politics,' coach says
A Saanich girls soccer team has found themselves in the middle of an ugly political spat with the league that has led to them being banned from the playoffs.
The under-15 Saanich Fusion squad learned they were banned last Thursday over allegations that a couple of players on the team were in breach of a league policy.
The rule limits the number of players who can be from out of the league's catchment area.
"It was heartbreaking, because we worked so hard to get to where we are as a team," said Fusion player Jillian McCue. "Having that taken away from us without any ability to point contradictions in the decision, it's just unfair and unethical."
Team coach Caelen Bright says the decision to ban the team from the playoffs came down at the last minute, with no opportunity to appeal to the Lower Island Soccer Association.
While the team doesn't deny they may have violated the league's rules, they say the decision is heavy-handed.
"From everything I've learned about this…politics is what's made this happen. There are ongoing politics in soccer in Victoria," said Bright. "Somehow this is the solution, is penalizing the players who have nothing to do with these politics."
She said the 16 girls on the team are devastated by the decision and feel "powerless" in the situation.
The league declined an interview with CTV News but issued a statement saying "Lower Island Soccer Association takes all infractions of its rules and regulations seriously and considers carefully the impact of disciplinary decisions on players, coaches, parents, clubs and the soccer community as a whole."
The team disagrees and says the impact is huge and the decision is unfair, noting the only other team in the league is composed of kids from several different clubs.
"Our only opposing team is one super-team made up of players from four different clubs who all received special permission from Lower Island in September to have unlimited transfers," said Bright.
Fusion players are now taking to social media to spark a campaign hoping to get back on the pitch, using the hashtag #LetThemPlay.
"I feel like even as a team, it's just a way to show that what is happening, it can't break us and together we're going to be staying as a team and standing tall together," said McCue.
Whether they'll be playing together after this weekend remains to be seen.
Supporters of the team say they're holding a rally Friday at noon on the lawn of the B.C. legislature.
Come to a Rally of Support tomorrow (Friday) @ noon on lawn of BC Legislature! This fight is not just about our team, it is about taking politics out of youth sports and just #letthemplay! #BCLeg https://t.co/BwFBXak34R— Brenda Knox (@BKnox2017) February 23, 2018