© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated
In February 2015 Alex Campbell announced to the media that he had folded the Victoria Highlanders Football Club. By April it was announced that the team would be up and running again, purchased by Marvin Diercks and David Dew. Did they know something that Campbell didn’t?
Campbell put a lot of resources into the team. The Highlanders added the women’s program, which like the men’s team, saw success on the pitch. The Highlanders added grassroots support to youth soccer. The organisation even brought in the legendary Glasgow Rangers for a friendly that drew well at the gate, but at the end of the day sponsors and paying spectators are what funds a team. Was the team sustainable playing in the USL PDL League with its decent gate numbers?
Campbell told the Times Colonist newspaper, “There had been a small group of investors that I had been talking to since March or April of last year, and when they pulled the plug, that was probably the last straw.”
Read into it what you will, but it appears by the above statement the short answer is no.
But the story isn’t as simple as it appears on the surface. The Highlanders drew season averages between 1000, and 1730 fans per game, which ranged from the third to ninth best attendance numbers in the PDL.
The Highlanders offered season ticket holders partial ownership for the 2013 season; a stake of up to 30%. With the folding of the team, where did this leave the board of governors and more importantly those season ticket holders? To be fair the money probably went into operating costs, but what sort of legacy does this leave for the local fans of the game?
According to the Highlanders website, owners Dew and Diercks are looking to re-enter the Highlanders into the USL PDL league for the 2016 season, as long as it can be sustainable. Hopefully the team didn’t burn through the local fan base with the sudden departure, last time.
When Drew and Diercks took the reins they had promised nothing but fiscal responsibility. They ran the team themselves as Coach and General Manager, respectively. They also entered the team into the Pacific Coast Soccer League, although not quite as competitive or as prestigious as the PDL, the league provides entertaining soccer for the fans and at a competitive level for the players. The Highlanders did well in their first season in the PCSL by finishing one win away from the league championship, losing out on penalty kicks to the Khalsa Sporting Club of Vancouver.
Are the Highlanders moving back into the PDL? Perhaps Deircks and Drew know something Campbell didn’t or have investors stepping up to the plate. Let’s hope for the sake of competitive soccer, the paying fans and sponsors return, as the PDL is a highly entertaining game.
Before the Highlanders, Victoria United played out of Royal Athletic Park from 1994 to 2012. They have played in Victoria under various identities since as far back as 1904. The professional Victoria Vistas also played out of Royal Athletic Park, while competing in the Canadian Soccer League for two seasons during 1989 and 1990.
The Pacific Coast Soccer League has been in existence since 1973; however, there have been various iterations of the league or leagues under the same banner dating back to 1908.
From the Highlander’s site:
“Highlanders are gauging support for 2016 and are encouraging supporters to purchase season tickets for next season with ‘Early Bird’ rates available for a limited time; $75 adult grandstand section; $52.50 for adult supporters section; and $52.50 for youth ages 16 and under. Amounts include taxes and fees. Season tickets available online at Select Your Tickets.”
2015 season final standings
|Vancouver United FC||16||11||2||3||41||19||22||35|
|Mid Isle Mariners||16||10||3||3||24||14||10||33|
|Victoria Highlanders FC||16||8||7||1||33||17||16||31|
|Khalsa Sporting Club||16||8||3||5||42||24||18||27|
|Abbotsford Magnuson Ford SC||16||2||6||8||16||24||-8||12|
|Tim Hortons Pinnacles||16||3||1||12||25||55||-30||10|
|FC Tigers Vancouver||16||0||3||13||16||53||-37||3|