Thousands of young soccer players and their families are set to descend upon Richmond this weekend for the 28th annual Richmond FC Thanksgiving Football Tournament.
Around 130 boys and girls teams from as far away as Abbotsford, the Okanagan, Smithers, Comox Valley and Edmonton will be among the 1,500 families in attendance.
Locally, as well as the Richmond FC teams (RFC), Supra Academy and the indigenous football academy Field Art will have teams entered.
“This is a great opportunity for our kids to test themselves against teams from much further afield than we normally play against,” said RFC’s executive director Marius Rovde.
“We’ve seen real growth in this tournament on the girls side of the event this season, which is great to see, and the fact that our RFC teams get to play for free is just another way we offer value to our families.”
According to the club, the tournament has more than doubled from the last time it was hosted in 2019, where just 60 teams took part.
Indeed, the club pointed out a 2004 report from the City of Richmond that stated the annual tournament is “responsible for bringing in around half a million dollars in business to the city” – a number which is likely to be a lot more in present terms.
“In 2020 we were dealing with Covid, so we didn’t get to run the event,” added Chris Parry, RFC chair.
“That size of an event requires a solid roster of volunteer parents to pull off, assistance from city staff in scheduling every inch of available field space, and commitment from players who spend precious hours on their holiday weekend on the pitch instead of scarfing down stuffing and gravy.”
It also requires the help of sponsors, said Parry, which is something RFC has no shortage of in 2021, having signed esports facility The Gaming Stadium on No. 3 Road as a club sponsor over the summer.
“Other sponsors, like Coho Commissary and Go Auto Columbia Chrysler are also featured, and they allow us to fund plans for free football programs for families of lower incomes later in the year.”