MLA Trevor Halford calls on B.C. government to take action in support of Simon Fraser football team

Photo courtesy: Trevor Halford

The battle to get Simon Fraser University’s football program reinstated has made its way to the provincial legislature.

On Thursday, B.C. United MLA Trevor Halford, who represents the riding of Surrey-White Rock, called out the provincial government for its silence on the issue during the morning session of the legislative assembly.

A full transcript of his address can be read below.

“The abrupt closure of SFU’s football program has come as a surprise to families, communities and, most importantly, the players. Everyone that has been involved with this proud program for the last half century is well aware of its significance. Lui Passaglia, Glen Jackson, Sean Millington, Terry Bailey and John MacDonald are all players that have gone on to lead the CFL and be great community leaders.

The SFU football community is united in finding a solution. They have support from alumni and from local leaders, but we have heard nothing from this government in terms of standing up for this program and standing up for these players who are fighting to keep their season alive.

My question is to the Premier. Will he make the call? Will he stand up, and will he address this with the president of SFU and get this football program reinstated today?”

Simon Fraser alumni have been involved in a furious attempt to save their school’s football program after the university announced its immediate discontinuation on April 4. Athletic director Theresa Hanson claimed the football program was eliminated due to not having a conference in which to play beyond 2023. She also admitted that the school did not formally request to join U Sports due to the “incredibly complex” application process that would have had to be undertaken.

A number of prominent figures in the football community have voiced their support in an attempt to revive the team, including a pledge from B.C. Lions owner Amar Doman to help fund the team if necessary. An injunction was filed last week in B.C. Supreme Court to reinstate the football program, on behalf of five players who are claiming breach of contract.

Speaking on behalf of the NDP government, Minister of Post-Secondary Education Selina Robinson dodged the question and cited the ongoing legal action.

“I thank the member for the question. I have been hearing, certainly, from some of the football players and the coaches that coach in my community and who have expressed concern about the decision that SFU has made. I’ve also spoken with the president of SFU to understand how they are supporting these student-athletes. There is tremendous disappointment. This has been a fledgling team for a number of years.

The post-secondary institutions — I know the member opposite appreciates this — do operate independently of government. They have the operational responsibility of making programmatic decisions based on the best interests of the students and the student-athletes. I do understand as well that this is before the courts, that there is a court action being taken. So it would be inappropriate for me, at this point, to say anything further on the matter.”

Members of the Simon Fraser University Football Alumni Society have met with SFU president Joy Johnson twice this week. A statement from the university is expected late Thursday.

In the meantime, the group will be hosting a fundraising drive on April 25 in support of financial aid for the affected student-athletes.