Victoria Highlanders FC announced Monday, that the organization will open the 2018 Premier Development League (PDL) season under a new ownership group. Led by key Victoria businessmen and soccer enthusiasts Brett Large, Moreno Stefani, Grant Olsen, Mark deFrias, and Ryan Wilson. Previous owners Marvin Diercks and David Dew will also join the club’s new ownership group.
The Highlanders’ new ownership team operates and manages a variety of key local businesses in the city. Large is the president of Liquor Plus and co-founded Country Grocer with members of his family. Stefani has worked at Team Sales Vancouver Island for over 25 years, and has been the president and co-owner for the past five years. Olsen owns and manages The Strathcona Hotel alongside his brothers, including it’s neighbouring establishments such as 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, a sports and event marketing agency, as well as the co-owner of PodiumTV, a live-streaming sports production company. Wilson is the co-owner of multiple businesses which include Bosley’s by Pet Valu on Yates Street, Rise & Grind Coffee, Eats on Broad Street and Wilson’s mini-donuts.
“Our entire group is humbled to be new caretakers of the Highlanders,” said Large, who will assume the role of managing director of the club. “We have each worked tirelessly in the background to make today’s announcement a reality. 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.”
The Highlanders have a vibrant, decade-long history of providing local, high-level soccer entertainment in Victoria. The club’s achievements include reaching the PDL’s Final Four Championship in 2013 and following up that season with a Northwest Division title in 2014.
“We have assembled a very strong ownership and executive team both on and off the field,” Large added. “and we intend to work closely with the University of Victoria and community to engage all levels of soccer.”
Notable players to come through the Highlanders organization include current Whitecap defender Brett Levis, Chicago fire midfielder Matt Polster, and Ottawa Fury midfielder Jamar Dixon. In 2014, the club welcomed Scotland powerhouse Rangers FC to Centennial Stadium for a thrilling match in front of 6,500 fans.
“It’s incredibly exciting to return to the Highlanders family as an owner,” added deFrias, “As an ownership group, we remain committed to having the Highlanders play a pivotal role in our community and be a destination where athletes will want to come and play.”
Victoria Highlanders FC return to Premier Development League action beginning May 11, 2018. The club will announce further developments in the coming weeks.