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New local ownership group hopes to kickstart Highlanders on and off the field

Victoria Highlanders FC will enter the 2018 Premier Development League soccer season under a new ownership group, it was announced Wednesday.

Victoria Highlanders FC will enter the 2018 Premier Development League soccer season under a new ownership group, it was announced Wednesday. Victoria businessmen Brett Large, Moreno Stefani, Grant Olsen, Mark deFrias and Ryan Wilson are part of the group. Previous owners, Marvin Diercks and David Dew, will remain as part of the club’s new ownership group.

Large will be the managing director of the club.

“Our belief in the future of soccer, and our community, were integral in our decision and we look forward to being a part of this team and this community for the long term,” Large said, in a statement.

“We have assembled a very strong ownership and executive team, both on and off the field, and we intend to work closely with the University of Victoria and community to engage all levels of soccer.”

Large is the president of Liquor Plus and co-founded Country Grocer with members of his family. Stefani is president and co-owner of Team Sales Vancouver Island. Olsen owns and manages the Strathcona Hotel with his brothers, including the Sticky Wicket, Games Room, Big Bad John’s, Rooftop and Distrikt nightclub. DeFrias is the former general manager of the Highlanders and current owner of deFrias Management Group and co-owner of PodiumTV, a live-streaming sports production company. Wilson is the co-owner of Bosley’s by Pet Valu on Yates Street, Rise & Grind Coffee, and Eats on Broad Street.

The PDL is considered the highest level of summer amateur soccer in North America and annually produces a large number of players selected in the MLS draft. Notable players to come through the Highlanders organization include two current MLS players — Vancouver Whitecaps defender Brett Levis and Chicago Fire midfielder Matt Polster — along with NASL Ottawa Fury midfielder and capped Canadian international Jamar Dixon. The Highlanders in 2014 hosted famed Scotland club Rangers FC at Centennial Stadium for a match in front of 6,500 fans.

The Highlanders, who will continue playing their home games at Centennial Stadium, return to the pitch to start the 2018 PDL season on May 11.