Community sport organizations in British Columbia will share $1.5 million in provincial government funding to help them survive the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lisa Beare, B.C.’s minister of tourism, arts and culture, says the funding will help many of the province’s 4,100 local sports organizations facing financial hardship without their registration fees, event revenues and sponsorships.
Beare says the pandemic has been difficult for community swimming, gymnastics, baseball and other local sports that rely largely on volunteer support but also have fixed costs.
A Victoria-area baseball team accompanied Beare for her outdoor announcement on the front lawn of the B.C. legislature.
Beare says the funding will be provided to amateur organizations and does not apply to B.C.’s semi-professional hockey and soccer leagues, that are also facing financial difficulties in the pandemic.
She says the $1.5 million contribution is accompanied by federal Heritage Canada funding of $3.4 million to assist B.C.’s provincial, disability and multi-sport organizations.
“We have 4,100 various community organizations throughout the province, and it could be your local swim club or your local gymnastics team or community soccer club,” Beare said.
“These funds are going to be for the operational costs of the organizations so that they are able to keep their doors open.”
Despite the funding announcement, Beare says the province has no set date for when sports organizations will be allowed to start their seasons. That decision, she said, lies with Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Lack of information, say sport organizations
While the financial assistance is more than welcomed, many in youth sport organizations in B.C. say they feel like they’ve been completely left in the dark by the province about what the future holds.
Jeff Clarke, technical director at Surrey United Soccer Club, says families and parents are desperate to know not just whether their kids can participate in youth sports in the future, but how it will look, and whether it can be done safely during a pandemic.
Unfortunately, Clarke says his team doesn’t have the answers, as they await instructions from the province that never seem to materialize.
“You’re just chasing your tails a little bit and trying to give people diplomatic answers, which only goes so far. Now, every day that ticks on, we’re getting closer to the season,” he said.
Pasquale Balletta with the Burnaby Soccer Association agrees that there’s been a lack of information provided from the government.
He says most sport organizations are planning three, six months, sometimes even a year, in advance — something that has become impossible in the current climate.
“It has been very stressful,” said Pasquale.
And both Pasquale and Clarke worry what kind of effect a prolonged absence from youth sports can have on young people.
“This is more than just the Surrey United Soccer program. This is about raising young individuals and giving them structure and [keeping] them away from temptation,” said Clarke. “This is worrisome for us on many levels.”