For the first time in more than two decades, Kelowna won’t be fielding a men’s team in the Pacific Coast Soccer League.
The executive board for the Okanagan Challenge has decided shut down the club’s operations for the 2013 season.
An inability to fill important positions on the board and a shortage of sponsorship funds have forced the Challenge to take a one-year leave of absence from the PCSL.
“The board has faced many retirements this year and has been unable to find replacements for those pivotal positions,” Challenge president Maria Ridgewell said in a statement. “It has also become more and more difficult to raise the necessary funding required to cover travel expenses, practice fields and equipment in order to stay competitive within the league.”
The Challenge operates on an annual budget of $40,000 to $45,000.
Ridgewell, who is stepping down after three years as team president, had hoped a number of Challenge alumni or other long-time members of the soccer community would step forward to join the executive board.
There simply wasn’t enough interest.
“We approached a lot of people about helping out, but people just weren’t willing to give the time to the team,” said Ridgwell. “It’s sad, but that’s the way it goes. It’s maybe time to just step back and take a break.”
Last season, the operation of the team was a joint effort between the Challenge and the UBC Okanagan Heat.
The university was unable to make the same commitment for 2013.
In addition, Ridgewell said fan support has been particularly disappointing over the last several seasons, with fewer than 20 people often showing up for games.
The Challenge, founded by Eric Tasker in 1989, played 23 seasons in the PCSL and enjoyed its share of success against opposition from across the Pacific Northwest.
The Okanagan club won the league playoff titles in 1997, 1998, 2009 and 2011.
Ridgewell is hopeful competitive men’s soccer will return to Kelowna in 2014 after a one-year break.
“The board regrets their decision for this season and is hopeful that the soccer enthusiasts of the area will be able in the near future to field an Okanagan team to participate in the Pacific Coast Soccer League,” she said.