League1BC welcomes Victoria Highlanders as founding License Holder

One of the province's longest serving clubs becomes the first League1 organization on Vancouver Island

November 26, 2021 - Vancouver / Victoria BC

When League1 BC planning ramped up in 2019, one of the key objectives was to provide a competitive environment for BC based groups in the semi-pro space, in order that both men’s and women’s programs could compete within their own province.  With today’s announcement, the league welcomes a club comprised of 2 groups coming together to represent lower Vancouver Island; another critical aspect of the league’s strategic planning.  Established in 2008, the Highlanders bring an established history, along with an impressive alumni.  Playing in their familiar “Olympic Rainshadow” (Black) and “Highland Gold”, (based on their founding years in the Highlands at Westhills Stadium) Highlanders FC become the sixth club to be announced in the planned seven-team league. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the Highlanders to continue to provide a platform for players to continue to develop and reach their potential,” said Managing Director Thomas Niendorf. “With the growth of soccer in Canada, the time was right for the Highlanders to join the Canadian soccer pyramid and continue to assist in the growth of soccer on Vancouver Island and British Columbia. We have high expectations for both programs to be competitive from the onset and are looking forward to bringing this level of soccer back to the community. “

Alongside the announcement of joining League 1 BC, the club is excited to announce the merging of Vancouver Island FC and Victoria Highlanders FC under one program and brand moving forward. Formerly of the Women’s Premier Soccer League, Vancouver Island FC have been leading the development of the women’s game on the Island and were nominated as Franchise of the Year in their inaugural season in the WPSL. The merging of the programs will provide equal opportunities for both men and women to compete in League1 BC. Head Coach Neil Sedgwick will continue in his role for the Victoria Highlanders League1 BC women’s program, while Steve Simonson will coach the men’s team.

"This is a perfect fit. Two organizations coming together to offer opportunities for island players. Our vision with VIFC when we entered the WPSL was to provide a playing environment for top female players,” said women’s Head Coach Neil Sedgwick.  “With that, we also wanted young female players to see what the possibilities were when they came to watch the team play. With women and men together, we are able to offer consistent structures and fan experiences as a complete Highlanders team playing in League1 BC."

"The launch of League1 in British Columbia is a fantastic opportunity for so many aspiring players in our region,” said men’s Head Coach Steve Simonson. “The league will be a great platform for some of the top young players to further their development, to extend their high-performance soccer careers, and possibly make the step into the professional game.  I am grateful for the opportunity to be back with the Victoria Highlanders as we enter the next chapter in our club's history, and to be part of the inaugural season of BC League1."

Gabriel Assis, BC Soccer Director of Operations said: “The Highlanders are a nationally recognized organization with a tremendous history in our province. We are thrilled to welcome them to League1 BC! The merge with Vancouver Island FC to participate in League1 BC highlights the commitment of all involved to provide male and female players from Vancouver Island with a platform into our new competition level. I look forward to enjoying their home matches in the beautiful Capital City.”

The Highlanders are in the process of finalizing their venue and have 2 excellent options and former homes in Royal Athletic Park and Centennial Stadium on the University of Victoria campus. 

Safe Sport Statement

BC Soccer believes that everyone involved in soccer has the right to participate in safe and inclusive environments free of abuse, harassment, discrimination, and to enjoy the sport at whatever level or capacity they participate in. The welfare of everyone involved in soccer is the foremost consideration and in particular, the protection of children in the sport is the responsibility of everyone involved.

About League1 BC

League1 BC is an adult open age Pro-Am Soccer League operated by BC Soccer. Established in 2021, the league is intended to bridge the gap between youth and professional soccer, targeting the “Training to Compete” stage within Long-term Player Development (LTPD). The League will engage communities across British Columbia providing standard-based competition and training environments for female and male players, coaches, and match officials. League1 BC serves as a key platform of development into further opportunities within the game.

About BC Soccer

Established in 1904, BC Soccer is the largest provincial sports organization (PSO) in BC and the third largest soccer-specific PSO in Canada with over 150,000 participants, consisting of registered players, coaches, referees, administrators and soccer leaders. As a professional not-for-profit society and a member of Canada Soccer, BC Soccer is committed to providing the widest opportunities for existing and potential participants, as well as provide support in the most effective and appropriate way for current players, parents, volunteers, member clubs, leagues, and districts.