It is one of the oldest soccer leagues in North America, with its roots tracing back to the turn of the 20th century.
But as it looks forward to the 2023-24 season, the Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) is cracking at its very roots.
In a statement released April 28, 37 members of the VISL expressed their lack of confidence with the league’s brass. The number had risen to 41 out of 68 membership squads that had signed on to the letter as of May 3.
“Our members have no confidence that the VISL is being run in their best interest,” the statement reads. “They do not trust that decisions are being made to benefit the league, its membership or the sport.”
The statement goes on to air grievances in multiple areas, including governance, finances and disciplinary measures.
“We want a better VISL,” Campbell River SC’s head coach Stephen Hall said in an interview. “It is a tenuous situation, but the league does need change.”
“We could go into hundreds of examples of small details,” said Hall. “I wouldn’t call what we’re seeing as secrecy, but the league’s members feel the board is not as open and as transparent as it could be. Some of the bigger, Victoria-based clubs have been frustrated for a long time.”
“Do I blame the board for everything that has happened? Certainly not,” said Hall. “But I’ve also seen that the membership hasn’t seen value, nor seen the responses it has for its concerns.“
A response from the VISL says the league’s annual general meeting is scheduled for July 4, with the posts of president, treasurer and eight director spots available to vote.
“If the majority of the membership feels like the league is not operating in their best interest, there is an opportunity to reshape the board,” the response states.
That’s something that Hall is optimistic will happen.
“We’re going to have an in-house voice down there,” said Hall. “Whether it’s myself, (Manager) Grahame (McNeill) or one of the senior players. We don’t want to give up on the VISL, we want a better VISL. Men’s soccer has been in Campbell River for a long time, and we want that to continue. Whether it’s a partial change of the board or a full change, we’re extremely hopeful that there will be change.”