Football teams to play despite strike
Many B.C. high school football teams have chosen to continue playing through the strike. (FILE PHOTO)
It’s game on for most high school football teams in the province despite the ongoing labour dispute that’s delayed the first day of school indefinitely.
Thirty-seven of roughly 60 teams have elected to participate in the fall season to date, said Kris Pechet of the B.C. High School Football Association.
In August, B.C. School Sports, a non-profit oversight organization, sanctioned the extracurricular fall sports season in the event of a teachers’ strike. With volunteers holding many of their coaching positions, the football association moved ahead, allowing each school to decide whether or not to participate.
To respect the collective bargaining process, the association directed coaches to use community venues for practices and games to prevent crossing picket lines, said Pechet. There will be no penalties against programs that do not participate until school resumes.
“With regard to our public school teachers, we really respect whatever decision they make and it’s a loss for us as some of the very best of our football coaches are public school teachers and we want them back as soon as possible,” he said.
For now, Pechet expects to see a 70% participation rate across the province. All but two of 16 elite-level teams were signed on as of Tuesday.
Exhibition play will begin this weekend and the association is considering the delay of league games by a week if the strike continues.
As for athletes who are pursuing a scholarship or career in the sport, Pechet said community football programs are a viable alternative for students who can’t participate.
There are roughly 37,000 athletes involved in seven fall school sports across the province, said Christine Bradstock, executive director of B.C. School Sports. She expects most programs to continue despite any further delays in the school year, with roughly half of the teams coached by community members.
“Participation in school sports is viewed as extracurricular and people are volunteering their time,” she said. “If a team wants to start practising or continue practising, then as long as they have the OK from the school and the school district, as far as we’re concerned, they go ahead.”