The Corner Brook-based Rugged Edge Western United FC soccer team is alive and kicking.
In August, United forfeited its final two games of the 2010 provincial Molson Challenge Cup season, prompting Gord Dunphy, the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association’s vice-president for senior soccer, to suggest the Western team had folded and would have to reapply to enter the provincial league.
Dunphy told The Telegram he was “totally disgusted,” and added: “I will not support them coming back into the league in 2011.”
However, now comes word that while Western will indeed have to re-apply to play for the Challenge Cup, so will any other team interested in competing in 2011. And to hear Bill Avery, chairperson of the Corner Brook Challenge Cup Association, Western will be back.
Avery maintains his team never folded and says he was extremely upset with Dunphy’s remarks.
“The most disgusting event of this whole process occurred with the release of the newspaper article (in the Telegram),” said Avery.
“This was not just an announcement of the games being cancelled, but an outright assault against Western United FC. “
According to Avery, “Through circumstances beyond our control, and the daunting obstacle of exorbitant travel, the Western United FC season was plagued with injury and other issues involving player participation during the season.
“We realized fielding a team for the Aug. 21-22 weekend was next to impossible. Rather than simply not show up at the field of play, we decided to give the league, and hence the teams, ample notice as a courtesy,” Avery explained. “What we were hit with, upon this notice, was nothing less than disturbing,”
Avery said after this notification, Dunphy wrote the team and indicated: “I will look to have the team and all those individuals involved to be suspended from all aspects of soccer effective immediately.”
“We couldn’t believe the provincial body was endorsing such strong language,” said Avery.
“Our integrity has been put into question and we feel it is unwarranted. We will deal with the penalty (for forfeiture) as stated in the rules, (but) we never dropped out of the league.”
Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Association( NLSA) president Doug Redmond confirmed the Western team hasn’t folded.
“They’ve been fined $1,000 for not playing the games, and that’s basically it,” said Redmond, who added there will be no individual player suspensions.
As far as Avery’s criticism of the NLSA is concerned, Redmond said, “We’re prepared to work with every association to move the game of soccer forward.
“I think United has been treated fairly, but obviously they weren’t happy with Gord’s comments. I’m not going to say anything about another executive member. However, members should know that when you do speak on the record, you should make sure you are doing so within the rules and regulations,” Redmond said.
Redmond acknowledged “There are challenges playing on the west coast,” but added that other teams have challenges as well.
“We’re more than prepared to work with any region, but there has to an agreement among everyone when it comes to betterment of the game,” he said.
Redmond said there are “loads of different ways” to help United compete, including allowing the team to expand it’s current 25-man roster by five or 10 players if needed.
As well, United might play only a point-weighted half-schedule as it did in 2009 when it was first re-admitted to the league. United played a full schedule this season and finished in last place with a 3-17-1 record, giving up a league-high 70 goals in 21 games while scoring just 20.
“If you are going to have a truly provincial league, you have to find ways to make it work,” said Redmond.
“Corner Brook has been a big part of soccer in Newfoundland and I hope they continue to be. But when you default games it affects everyone.”
Redmond said the next time he’s in Corner Brook, he’s more than willing to meet with the team’s executive and speak to the team’s sponsor.
The provincial soccer boss said the annual general meeting in St. John’s Nov. 26-27 will be used, among other things, to discuss any concerns of the teams. A final decision on which teams will precipitating next year will be decided at a follow-up meeting in April or May.