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Abbotsford soccer club resolves lottery issue, lands record grant

After weathering significant adversity in 2013, Abbotsford’s minor soccer association has taken steps toward greater stability.

That’s according to Dan Village, the new general manager of the Abbotsford Magnuson Ford Soccer Club (AMFSC), who told The News that the club is back in good standing with B.C.’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch following a pair of audits by the provincial body – one on its general books, and one on its lottery account.

The audits were prompted by a licensing issue with the AMFSC’s annual vehicle raffle, which saw the club refund about $12,000 worth of raffle tickets in March of 2013 after it was discovered it did not have a licence for the fundraising lottery. The previous year, the club had netted about $17,500 from the raffle.

The AMFSC also faced a deficit of more than $70,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year, consisting of a budget shortfall of about $22,000 and outstanding accounts of $50,000. The City of Abbotsford (field fees) and Soccer Express (sports equipment) were among the club’s chief creditors.

Compounding matters, the AMFSC was unable to access gaming grants during the audit process, and Village said the club had applied for $79,000 – its usual gaming grant amount – in 2013.

Once the audits wrapped up in mid-December, the club re-applied to the gaming branch and received a $40,000 grant in January to tide it over.

But things really began to look up on May 23, when the AMFSC was issued a $100,000 gaming grant for 2014 – the largest in its history. And on May 30, it received a new raffle license.

“There was much rejoicing in the soccer office,” said Village, who termed the past year-plus “the lowest of the low for our club.

“Without the understanding and co-operation of our paid coaches, the city and Soccer Express and others, we wouldn’t be viable anymore. Through patience and understanding and support from the community and people we deal with, we were able to survive.”

In the aftermath of the audits, the club has implemented a series of recommendations, from items that Village termed “obvious,” like applying for a proper raffle licence, to financial oversight measures, including an inspection of their books by a certified general accountant.

The AMFSC has also taken steps to trim its operating budget – Village said the club no longer accept payment via credit card for player registration, which saves it $23,000 to $25,000 each year in credit card fees.

The club has also relocated its office to the Bateman Park fieldhouse, receiving free use of the space from the city in exchange for serving as caretakers.

Village said the club’s debts are now in the $20,000 range.

“We’re not back in the black yet, but the plan is to be totally clear by the end of the summer,” he said.

“It made us sit down and say, ‘OK, what are we doing here?’ Instead of going month-to-month like we were, now we’ve got a nice three- to five-year plan that we can build on.”

The club is also seeking to be more responsive to membership in terms of the programs it runs, and had record attendance at its spring recreational leagues. Registration for the fall season is also well ahead of where it was at this time last year, after the AMFSC trimmed its registration fee by about $60 per player – the U13 to U18 early bird rate was $315 this year, compared to $375 in 2013.

“One of the biggest complaints was, our fees were too high compared to Chilliwack, compared to Aldergrove, compared to Mission,” Village said. “We looked good and hard at our budget – A, how can we take care of what we owe and B, how can we encourage people to come back?”

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