Gorge Soccer Association unable to account for more than $250,000

Saanich soccer club executives discovered an empty bank account and more than $250,000 in funds unaccounted for days after their longtime president died suddenly Feb. 7.

“Right now, we’re working on what happened,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, spokesman for the Gorge Soccer Association. “And we want to reassure our members the club is not in any danger going forward.”

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The financial concerns began last fall when small businesses and organizations to whom the club owed money complained they hadn’t been paid.

The executive decided to appoint a new treasurer, Todd Abercrombie, in January 2014. The previous treasurer had died three years ago and president Terry Marra, a former financial professional, took over.

“We asked that all of the club’s financial records be turned over to [the new treasurer],” said Wynn-Williams.

But Marra died before that could happen.

The cause of his death is being determined, said coroner Barb McLintock.

“We got access to the bank accounts on Feb. 12, but we don’t know where the financial records are,” Wynn-Williams said.

The club had expected to find about $35,000 in its account, a surplus that would have been used for field upgrades and paying creditors.

The Gorge Soccer Association has been around for more than 50 years. It has a membership of about 300 adults and 800 children and youth, who are assessed about $300 a year in registration fees.

Many members volunteer as coaches and fundraise for the association’s teams.

“The treasurer started to go back through some records and identified anomalies,” Wynn-Williams said.

These included cheques for petty cash, which might have been used for things like paying referees.

“But there are rather a lot of them,” Wynn-Williams noted. “It’s hard to know which ones are legitimate expenses.”

The club reported the financial irregularities to the Saanich Police Department, which decided not to investigate and recommended that the association pursue a civil claim.

The club also initiated a forensic audit to determine how the financial situation happened and what can be done to prevent a recurrence.

“We need to find out where our financial practices failed so we can go forward,” said Wynn-Williams, adding that the membership has been supportive despite the disturbing financial news and Marra’s death.

“It’s been a shock. The president was a real pillar of the club,” Wynn-Williams said. “He was the guy who kept a drawer of boots for kids who couldn’t afford them, and the new turf would not have happened without him.”

The club will hold an information session for members tonight at 8 p.m. at the Gorge Fieldhouse.

Wynn-Williams said being transparent about the situation is the first step in coming together as a team and moving forward. The community has shown its support as well, he said.

“We’ve said we will be very patient with them in terms of what is owed to Saanich,” Mayor Frank Leonard said. “And we are supportive as they rebuild their finances.”

Spring registration for the 2014/2015 season will go ahead as usual. For more information, visit: gorgesoccer.ca

spetrescu@timescolonist.com

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