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VFC: Langley sports story of the year

Creating a new pro soccer franchise from scratch

In April of this year, just a month before the first Vancouver FC home game in Langley was to happen, concrete foundations for two of the three sets of stands for the 6,560 capacity stadium had just been poured, and crews were assembling metal risers and installing seats.

It would be ready, just in time.

In May, in front of a capacity crowd, in the just-completed stadium in Langley’s Willoughby Park, Vancouver FC fought Calgary Cavalry to a 1-1 tie.

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Vancouver FC’s very first home game ends with a tie

For VFC president Rob Friend and his company, SixFive Sports & Entertainment, it was another scramble in a race to create a pro sports franchise, from scratch, without a lot of lead time.

“We couldn’t sell tickets until the day before the stadium opened for our home opener because we didn’t have a stadium map,” Friend revealed.

The rush began in April of 2022, when the new Canadian Premier League (CPL) franchise announced it would debut in 2023.

In less than a year, Friend, a former Canadian Men’s National Team forward and his partners had to find a coach, build a team, construct a stadium, sell tickets and market the club.

“It was a lot,” Friend said.

“I think over the last year, the work that we’ve done within such a short period of time, I think we can be very proud of,” Friend told the Langley Advance Times.

Referring to himself and his company as “ambitious,” Friend is optimistic about VFC’s second season.

“We understand that it takes time to really get established in any market, but certainly to do what we did last year, to kind of hit the ground running, and now we have sort of a foundation to build off – its looking very positive.”

“Now we have a full team and a staff to really go out and build ticket packages and and help market the team and do more,” he added.

After Vancouver FC became the first side eliminated from Canadian Premier League playoff contention in mid-September, they wound things up with a winning streak, downing the Valour, Wanderers and Pacific teams before losing their last game of the season to York United in October at the Willoughby stadium.

By hiring VFC head coach Afshin Ghotbi, Friend said the team acquired “one of the best coaches right now in North America.”

He credits Ghotbi with taking a young group of players who had never played together, and making them into “one of the most consistent, best teams in League” by the end of the season.

“With the youngest team in the league, I think that certainly sets us up for success, not only next season but for the [long-term] future.”

“We’ve got a good group of players that are coming back who really progressed and we have a great business team.”

READ ALSO: VIDEO: Second-season version of Vancouver FC begins to take shape

Next season, fans can expect to see off-the-field improvements including more food and beverage options and, it’s hoped, a much bigger video display screen.

“The stadium still needs to be finished, needs to be polished, ” Friend noted.

“We’re really pushing with the municipality [about] enhancing the stadium for a better fan experience.”

VFC will be building more more community outreach programs to be an “even larger part of the fabric of the community.”

And roster changes are being made, aimed at creating “a much better, more exciting on-field product [with] better players, more exciting players, that hopefully translates into success.”

Friend described the CPL as “the league for Canadians by Canadians.”

“We’ve made it this league to grow the game, which is the fastest growing game in Canada. The more people wanting to support it, the better.”

Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Best recognized for my resemblance to St. Nick, I’m the guy you’ll often see out at community events and happenings around town.
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