I am appreciative to City Council and Administration for engaging in this topic. Their thoughtful questions make it clear they understand the challenges faced by their important sports communities. The large and diverse group of Soccer supporters that attended the recent Committee meeting makes it clear that the Soccer community has evolved and intends to make their voices heard. I have not witnessed such a collective effort for Soccer by unconnected groups such as post secondary’s, parents, support groups and fans in Edmonton before.
Edmonton bills itself as a progressive city, the most family friendly, a sports city, a festival city – and we are indeed all of those things. Soccer has shown, given the proper conditions, and proper partners – we can succeed. Soccer has largely been an after thought, but our city has changed – frustration and complacency have been replaced with determination and drive. Soccer is a large community but has typically been divided, a new generation and era for the Sport is upon us. This is hard to ignore with such groups and events as Men’s World Cup 2026 bid, Women’s World Cup, Top of The City 36 Hour Soccer Game, Little Kickers, Hope and Football, the Edmonton Scottish Soccer Dome, the largest indoor Soccer tournament in western Canada and just this past weekend over 3,000 fans at an FC Edmonton Academy game against Calgary on a cold, dark and windy Sunday.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, a quick glance at Municipal or Federal census numbers shows how much our city has changed in the past 30 years and continues to change. This conversation should be about the future of sports in Edmonton and catching up to the other great municipalities in Canada.
There are those that are intent on creating a divisive and polarizing debate – Us vs. Them. This is sadly a common theme in civil debate in these onerous times, one which will not help anyone. The reality is that we are not so far apart – ignoring the rhetoric and frustrations on each side – we are natural allies that need to consult more with the right people at the table with the right perspective.
There is no debate that all sports are beneficial to our communities so I will not dwell on that, I want to focus more on what makes Soccer unique. Soccer builds bridges, it heals, it brings hope where it is otherwise absent. With 30,000+ registered Soccer players it has the unique capability to speaking to and benefitting so many, in Canada 44% of children play Soccer and a lot of them tend to be from vulnerable communities. Soccer is the Worlds game as it is the most popular sport in the World by far, this is important as our Country and certainly our city is a melting pot of culture – the vast majority of immigration source countries are Soccer nations, immediately we have an inclusion and integration tool at our disposal. Over 40% of all registered Soccer players are female. When we consider that 70% of children typically drop out of sports by age 13 there are variables which impact this number even greater – family income, immigrants and females are at greatest risk. We have an unbelievable opportunity to engage with these groups as we already have the user base. We would be foolish not to use a vehicle for greater social change that is already within our grasp.
This is not a matter of feeling entitled as a sport, it is about the broad influence we have across every demographic and typically the most vulnerable ones as well. It is about allowing us to give the same opportunities afforded to others to our Soccer kids.
Now is the time for the Soccer fans, parents, players and kids to galvanize behind FC Edmonton, this is our moment. We need progress, not perfection. I urge all field sports including football and baseball to work collaboratively, as allies, to find a solution.
– Ricardo Casanova