Cancelling the annual Shore’N’Score Cup on such short notice due to the thick wildfire smoke blanketing the Shuswap was both a hard decision to swallow and an easy decision to make, according to Shuswap Youth Soccer Association executive director Kevin Harrison.
The yearly youth soccer tournament was set to run this coming weekend, Aug. 25, and draws hundreds of players from across B.C. to hit the soccer pitch in Salmon Arm, making it one of the major events of the season for the local association. Wildfire smoke has led to the cancellation of several outdoor events due to health concerns this summer, such as the Apple Triathlon and Penticton’s Super League Triathlon.
“We are super disappointed, a lot of hard work goes into this tournament every year. Ultimately it was a tough decision, but it was also an easy decision for health reasons and the safety of these young players,” Harrison said.
Young children and seniors are particularly susceptible to the effects of smoke, and with the majority of the 900 players in the tournament being 13 years old or under, their safety was the number one concern.
While the association was optimistic earlier in the week that a pattern of clearer skies and cleaner air would hold through the weekend, Harrison spoke with an Environment Canada meteorologist who explained that shifting weather patterns would mean a return of hazy skies and poor air quality. This prompted the decision to cancel the tournament and refund all player registration fees.
Because of the short notice cancellation, however, Harrison says there are some difficulties with refunds on accommodation and campground rentals.
Robbie Singh, who works at the Sandy Point Campground, says the business is offering to refund all costs except an administration fee to those who reserved a spot for the tournament weekend because these cancellations were “for a genuine reason, this is an act of God, but we usually don’t do it.”
He notes that many of the families who would have been staying at the campground for the tournament are regulars who have been staying there over the tournament weekend for several years.
Singh also says the campground’s reservation and camper numbers have been lower than usual in August, which is normally their busiest time of the season. In fact, he says they have had families who paid to stay up to 12 nights but ended up leaving very early due to the smoky conditions.
However, he says camper numbers were high earlier in the season, which he attributes to the lack of a fire ban.
Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce President Fiona Harris could not speak to specific numbers for 2018 yet, though she notes the cancellation of a large event like the Shore’N’Score Cup will have some impact on tourism numbers and revenue generated from visitors.
“It’s very disappointing to have this event cancelled in Salmon Arm due to air quality conditions. This is a topic that the chamber will be bringing to the attention of other chambers within our region, with a view to escalate this discussion to the B.C. chamber and hopefully alert the B.C. government to the impact forest fires are having on our economy.”
Somewhat ironically, however, Chamber of Commerce general manager Corryn Grayston said the Visitor Centre has noticed an increase in visitors coming to the Shuswap to escape the much smokier conditions found elsewhere in B.C., such as northern communities that are closer to the fires.
While Harrison says the idea of rescheduling the Shore’N’Score Cup was considered briefly, there is a large number of other soccer tournaments across B.C. in the coming weeks, followed by the beginning of school sports, football and a return to classes which would make scheduling a challenge.
“It’s always a great chance to show off the community; we always used this as a wrap-up event for the year,” Harrison says. “But we don’t want to be competing with other sports as their season starts.”
In the meantime, the Shuswap Youth Soccer Association will be gearing up for the start of the 2018-19 development/select season and the start of their Future Stars program aimed at introducing young players to soccer.