For the players on Victoria’s W-League soccer team, swapping names from Highlanders to the Peninsula Co-op Women’s team is as easy as slipping into a brand new jersey.
After all, it was one year ago the Highlanders FC team debuted in the W-League.
But when a team travels for 15 road games from Vancouver to Los Angeles, the associated costs can add up. So starting in 2012, both the women’s W-League and under-20 squads formerly known as the Highlanders will now share the name Peninsula Co-op Women’s Soccer.
“If not for Peninsula Co-op, we couldn’t afford the costs associated with a W-League team,” said Highlanders part-owner Alex Campbell.
“I don’t understand why people go crazy for the national women’s team but don’t support the W-League, which is the last stop for players before they go on to the national level.”
The Highlanders’ founder was candid, for the most part, during the unveiling of Peninsula Co-op’s sponsorship at the Sticky Wicket last week.
“This women’s team only averaged about 200 fans per home game last year, though I’m positive it can average 1,000 at Royal Athletic Park in 2012,” Campbell said.
Exactly how much the team cost to run, Campbell wouldn’t divulge, though he is quick to explain the Highlanders’ organization.
With men’s and women’s teams in the United Soccer League system, the clubs are not in business to make a profit. Rather, the goal is to bring the highest level of soccer to Victoria.
To help make that happen, the women’s team will swap jersey colours from black and gold to red and white. The front of the jersey now bears the same branding as Peninsula Co-op’s retail stores.
With 13 gas stations across Greater Victoria, the brand is a familiar one. This isn’t the first time a sports teams in Victoria was named for a gas station sponsor. From 1982 to 1994, the Victoria Shamrocks played as Victoria Payless, named for Payless Gas, winning the Mann Cup in 1983.
Bringing on a “presenting partner” is the latest boost of community support for the Highlanders, who’re also selling ownership shares with each season ticket, entitling holders to a vote in the team’s decision making. The Highlanders’ unique ownership structure makes its debut this season. The goal is for 30 per cent ownership through annual season ticket sales, and 30 per cent from local soccer organizations. Lakehill, Gorge and Prospect Lake have agreed in principle with the idea.
This year, both the men’s and women’s teams will play out of Royal Athletic Park. Peninsula Co-op Women’s Soccer open the season on May 13 while the Highlanders men’s team starts May 23 at RAP.