EXCLUSIVE: Families out thousands of dollars after youth soccer program abruptly shuts down
Hundreds of families could be out thousands of dollars after a youth sports company abruptly shut down last week.
BCN Sports Services Canada ran five soccer academies across the country, including one in Toronto, under an agreement with professional soccer club, FC Barcelona.
In some cases, parents say they handed over thousands in payments for soccer training, trips and soccer camps. Teresa Stanic is one of them. She tells NEWSTALK 1010, her son's trip to Spain for a soccer tournament was cancelled because of COVID-19.
"He was devastated," she says. So they signed him up to play in a March break camp.
When it too was cancelled, Stanic says the company offered a credit for a future camp but refused to refund the money. They intended to use the credit for a summer camp but then, there was more bad news.
"I will never forget. This day is in my head and it's going to be in my head forever," Stanic says.
It was Thursday, April 30th, she received an email from BCN Sports that read in part, "Despite our efforts to find ways to make our project financially viable, we are forced to stop our operations, and given the position of the company we intend to file for voluntary insolvency as the best way for orderly closure."
The company blames the "extraordinary and unanticipated circumstances," around the COVID-19 pandemic.
She says she has not been given any information on refunds. In total, she's out about $9000.
NEWSTALK 1010 got in touch with Lou Brzezinski, a Partner at Blaney McMurtry LLP, specializing in bankruptcy and insolvency. He wanted to help.
"We'll be happy to look into this for these parents," Brzezinski says.
However, it doesn't seem likely the families will be getting their money back. As of Wednesday, there was no bankruptcy filing on record for BCN Sports Services.
If they do file, and even if there is money left in the company, "if there are banks that are owed money, secure creditors, they would take that money instead," Brzezinski says.
Even so, Stanic is just happy someone is listening.
"The situation, COVID-19, when there are legitimate families out there who don't know what to do...who are trying to figure out how (they're) going to get food on the table...they are lost."
One of the affected parents started a private Facebook group called, "BCN Sports & Barca Academy defrauded us." As of Wednesday, it had nearly 150 members.
The fraud allegation from parents has not been proven in court.
BCN Sports did not respond to NEWSTALK 1010's email or telephone requests for comment.
In a letter to families, FC Barcelona said in part, "Despite this unfortunate situation, we are sending you all of our support, commitment and help to ensure that BCN SPORTS, as the responsible entity of registration for all the activities planned under the aforementioned projects, responds to you and to all the families affected, assuming full responsibility, including financial obligations originated from its decision to imminently close the five venues, as well as the Barça Academy Camps."
An FC Barcelona source told NEWSTALK 1010 the club is working with the travel agency hired by BCN Sports to arrange the trip to Spain. They say they've asked the agency to refund part of the money to BCN Sports, so that it can be passed along to the families.