By Cameron Chaddad
The sports world has been turned upside down during the COVID-19 pandemic and Ottawa’s soccer community has not been immune.
In early May, BCN Sports, which ran the FC Barcelona brand Barca Academy soccer program in Ottawa, announced it would be filing for insolvency.
The company ran Barca Academy programs throughout the country in Ottawa, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. Its folding took many by surprise, including those who were involved with it in Ottawa, who are now searching for answers.
Mere weeks before the pandemic sidelined sports, families were urged by BCN Sports to sign up for March Break camps and to pay ahead. When camp dates neared, they were cancelled. BCN Sports abandoned their refund policies and have refused to give families their money back, in many cases.
Maddix Robert had been playing soccer with the Barca Academy since it opened up shop in Ottawa in 2016, according to his father James. This year was also going to be Maddix’s sister’s first year also playing with the program.
The Robert family is now out $2,145 because of BCN Sports’ shutdown. James said his requests for refunds have not been responded to.
James is now a part of a Facebook group called “BCN Sports & Barca Academy defrauded us,” with more than 300 members who say they’re in a similar situation.
The Globe and Mail reported that families across Canada have lost anywhere between $500 to $19,000 because of the closures of the BCN Sports-run academies and the company’s refusal to give refunds.
“Let us not forget how bad this is for the kids,” Robert said. “The team is where they’ve made friends and now that social network is gone and they have to start over.”
Robert said he had appreciated the academy’s staff and said he hoped they’re not forgotten amidst the mess either.
“There were so many good people involved and they were also blindsided by this and are now out of jobs,” he added.
École secondaire publique Louis-Riel was a partner of the Barca Academy, but while BCN Sports operated its academy on Louis-Riel’s grounds, the head of Louis-Riel’s soccer program says he, too, received no word ahead of its sudden shutdown.
“We were very happy with the partnership and the expertise the [Barcelona] coaches brought. (It) was a great growing opportunity for our staff and players. However, we also got no heads up or warning that this was coming,” said Joé Fournier, the technical director of Louis-Riel’s soccer school said.
Fournier stressed that while the school followed the methodology of the Barca Academy, they are separate, and this will not affect his program moving forward. He said, as well, that Louis-Riel has begun engaging with other potential partners to replace BCN Sports.
The company has kept quiet about the shutdown since announcing it.
In a statement about BCN Sports’ intention to declare insolvency, FC Barcelona put out a message of its own, saying it “stands by the families” who were impacted.
“(FC Barcelona) will do everything possible to ensure BCN Sports reimburses the registration fees for cancelled activities,” the press release from FC Barcelona says.
Robert says he’s still disappointed with what he feels has been inaction from the club.
“At the end of the day we signed up to play under the Barcelona name, not BCN and we want more than just their support. We want action to be taken,” Robert said.