The Victoria Highlanders Football Club was founded on 6, January, 2008, when the United Soccer Leagues (USL) awarded the City of Victoria the rights to a Premier Development League (PDL) franchise.
Victoria business man, Alex Campbell Jr., had previously been dedicated to the dream of bringing professional soccer back to the Garden City, and, after the highly successful FIFA U-20 Men's World Cup in 2007, Mr. Campbell realized that Victoria was not only ready, but starving for top flight soccer. The City of Victoria embraced the U-20 tournament like no other; 11,500 passionate soccer and sport fans caught a glimpse of the world's next soccer phenoms in a re-fitted Royal Athletic Park. The event was played out of six cities (Victoria, Burnaby, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal) and helped create the footing for soccer organizers across the country, kickstarting a Canadian soccer renaissance.
Mr. Campbell's new club would take the moniker, Victoria Highlanders FC, and at the end of January 2008, Drew Finerty was hired as the club's first ever General Manager. Mr. Finerty had spent the previous three years as the General Manager of the Victoria Rebels, a Canadian junior football club. Signed to a three year contract, Finerty’s first task was to find the club's first Head Coach. Within three months of scouting coaches and hosting interviews, the Highlanders found their man and 2, April, 2008 the Victoria Highlanders introduced former Canadian National team player, captain and interim Head Coach, Colin Miller as the team's Head Coach and Director of Soccer Operations. At the same time, the club also introduced Assistant Coach and Director of Youth Development Steve Simonson, who had previously spent time with the BC provincial team, Royal Military College and Vancouver Whitecaps organization.
Later that month, team management and the new coaching staff spent two days on Denman Island for a "soccer retreat" to discuss player scouting and identification, and lay the framework for the new PDL club. The coaching staff was given the opportunity to use their 12 month lead time to identify local players that were up to PDL standards. Miller and his staff used their time wisely, beginning with an open trial in May, where 40+ players were selected to begin immediate training to form the basis of the youth and reserve pool sides. Along with these youth and reserve team trialists a number of Vancouver Island League verterans as well as University players were invited to be considered for 1st team duty. Over the next 8 weeks the group trained twice weekly and prepared for a few exhibition friendlies to evaluate their progress in the identification process.
In early July of 2008, the club added Goalkeeper Coach Bob Stankov and Assitant Coach Dave Dew to round out the coaching staff. At the end of July, the Highlanders broke camp and took to monitoring their early recruits as they returned to their winter league universities and club teams.
On top of scouting & development, the club forged two important business partnerships. Firstly, the Highlanders joined forces with the Lower Island Soccer Association (LISA) to provide coaching support to the U18 Metro Boys team and assigned Steve Simonson to direct and develop the youth players that could become the next level of prospects in the system. Secondly, a partnership was formed with the newly opened Pacific Institute for Sports Excellence (PISE) which helped to provide a professional setting for the club’s training facility and offered players access to a world class sports medicine centre.
Within weeks after signing these partnerships, PISE opened their new all weather Field Turf pitch. The new facility was then dedicated in the name of Campbell’s father, Alex Sr, in appreciation of his financial contribution to the project while he was the CEO of Thrifty Foods.
In April of 2009, the City of Langford finished construction on Bear Mountain Stadium at City Centre Park, an all weather turf in the heart of the Westshore, and it was immediately announced that it would become the home park of the Victoria Highlanders, who would open their inaugural PDL season that same month. The first season of Highlanders football can only be considered a success as the expansion side battled their way to 6-6-4 record but also drew among the leagues best attendances.
Their second season of play brought more up's and down's than the first as the squad was in playoff contention all-season long in the very tough Northwest Divison but stumbled in their last few games and narrowly missed out on the post-season, finishing with a 7-6-3 record and fourth spot in the division.
Today, the organization enters an exciting new era of their history, with a strong and passionate fan base and an influx of new talent as they not only look to improve on the pitch, but off it as well. Expanding their role in the community, the creation of Highlanders FC soccer camps and the launch of their academy is garnering praise around the city and looks to be just the program to keep a lasting football tradition alive. The Victoria Highlanders FC looks forward to a future of developing young football talent and establishing a proud tradition of winning football on Vancouver Island.