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Soccer association won't let conflict ruin season

A power struggle at the Alberta Soccer Association is making life tricky and difficult for the St.

A power struggle at the Alberta Soccer Association is making life tricky and difficult for the St. Albert Soccer Association (SASA) but it is making sure the upcoming indoor season won’t be affected by a conflict that’s divided Alberta’s soccer communities.

There are two competing boards trying to run the Alberta Soccer Association (ASA.) Each has a following among associations across Alberta but no one really knows which is in charge, said David Onderwater, president of SASA.

The St. Albert and Edmonton associations are in opposite camps. Since some St. Albert teams participate in Edmonton’s league, the upcoming indoor season could be in jeopardy if the relationship between them turns sour.

“Them being on one side and us being on the other side is the issue,” Onderwater said.

“I’ve met with the president of Edmonton minor soccer and we have good relationships and assurances that things will continue as they have but things can change.”

If its teams are barred from Edmonton play, SASA is prepared to partner with other area associations to create a suburban league, he said.

SASA has already had discussions along those lines, executive director Melody Martyn confirmed.

“It will be just fine. We will have a good competition still,” she said.

The conflict at the Edmonton-based ASA has been going on since late February. It began when then vice-president Mario Charpentier led a group that tried to have president Chris Billings suspended for alleged offences that included alleged verbal harassment of an ASA staff member and expenditures that were not authorized by the board.

Billings and his supporters contend the suspension is invalid.

Since then, separate boards led by Billings and Charpentier have both been trying to run ASA. SASA has been and continues to be a Billings supporter, Onderwater said.

St. Albert soccer would normally be advertising registrations for the indoor season, which begins in October, but the group is holding off in hopes of a resolution, Martyn said.

While the conflict hasn’t filtered down to the soccer fields, it’s made life very stressful in the office, she said.

“Everything you do, you’re walking on pins and needles. It’s not an easy work environment for anybody,” Martyn said.

The situation did affect players this past weekend when various provincial championships were held across the province. St. Albert hosted the U18 tier four tournament. Because it’s considered by the Charpentier group to be an association not in good standing, SASA organizers didn’t have access to ASA medals or trophies.

With just a few days notice, SASA found some unused medals in its offices. Another division provided two large trophies, Martyn said.

Les Hodges, who is a vice-president within the St. Albert association and the ASA Billings group, thinks the legal system is the only solution for the turmoil.

“Lawyers have been involved from day one, from both sides,” he said. “You’ve got two factions battling against each other and it’s going to continue and continue so we have to get a court order to stop this insanity.”

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