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PYSL, rec authority merger called win-win
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Uganda men’s national soccer team player Henry Kalungi (left) talks to Piedmont Youth Soccer League (PYSL) players at the Smith River Sports Complex in October. The league recently announced that it is merging with the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority (SVRFA). (Bulletin file photo)

Friday, February 28, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A merger that blends the soccer expertise and know-how of one organization with the marketing and management skills of another is expected to be mutually beneficial, officials said.

The merger of the Piedmont Youth Soccer League (PYSL) and the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority (SVRFA) “is a great thing for the community and for all of those who are interested in soccer in the community. It will allow more soccer programs to be done in the community,” said Jimmy McGarry, chairman of the board of the recreation facilities authority, which operates the Smith River Sports Complex.

“I think with our combined resources — their knowledge of soccer and our expertise in marketing — that we can grow the whole league out and expand it tremendously,” said Billy Russo, director of operations for the SVRFA. An expansion “is going to help all of us.”

The blending of the two organizations allows the PYSL board to concentrate on “soccer operations and not have to worry about some of the money issues and staffing. We know how to manage, we know how to recruit others to help, and we do that all along; they have the soccer expertise,” Russo said.

Also, because the PYSL holds its games at the sports complex, the merger “is the natural next step,” McGarry said.

The PYSL is a nonprofit organization that provides recreational soccer opportunities to youngsters between the ages of U-4 to U-18, and offers the option to participate in a travel soccer program, Russo said.

There are an estimated 600 to 650 youth who participate in PYSL’s programs throughout the year, including 500 to 520 youngsters on the recreation teams and 75 to 125 players on the travel team, he said.

PYSL players primarily use three full-size fields at the complex unless they have a festival, playoffs or some other event, Russo said. When that happens, PYSL uses all five fields, he added.

The amount the league pays to use the complex — $20 per recreation team member, $40 for travel team members and a few other minor fees — will not increase under the merger, Russo said.

Under the merger, the PYSL’s all-volunteer, eight- to 10-member board of directors will continue to oversee the league’s direction, but its scheduling, registration, ordering and other tasks will be done by full-time staff members at the complex, McGarry said.

The league had two part-time employees — an operations manager and a contracted coaching director, Russo said. The part-time operations manager left the post. Because the authority had a part-time person on its staff already handling registrations, the decision was made to hire that person full-time, he said.

The contracted position will not change, except “we will just be paying him from our payroll,” Russo said. He noted that the league is nonprofit. “We will manage their (PYSL) funds, but we will not intermingle them” with authority funds.

The salary will be the same for both positions, he said. However, because the authority also will oversee the league’s finances, payroll will be done by the authority staff.

Currently, there are five full-time employees at the complex, and between four and seven part-time employees, depending on the season and the need, Russo said.

The community, the complex and the PYSL will benefit because the merger will allow more tournaments and camps to be held at the sports complex in Axton, McGarry said, because the larger staff at the complex can schedule and manage them. In contrast, the soccer league “has a limited budget and limited manpower,” he said.

With additional events and programs bringing people in from out of town, McGarry said “there is a possibility” the complex’s revenue will increase. That would mean a greater economic impact on the community.

“It also is our hope that (if) more events are brought in and there are more operational hours,” revenues will increase to the point “that hopefully, hopefully it may allow us to reduce the costs of participation ... or maybe offer scholarships to needy players,” McGarry said.

Any short-term benefits are “not anywhere near what the long-term benefits will be,” Russo said. “What we would like to do is have more than one soccer event, and have the events be stable,” Russo said.

The complex is funded partially by The Harvest Foundation, and its long-term goal is to become self-sufficient, according to McGarry and Russo.

In the 2013-14 fiscal year, which ends June 30, the estimated $575,000 operational budget at the complex includes $335,000 in revenue generated by the complex and $240,000 — or about 41 percent — from the Harvest Foundation, McGarry said.

The 2012-13 fiscal budget of $565,000 included $254,000, or 46 percent, funding from Harvest, Russo said. He added the authority’s grant cycle with Harvest will provide $215,000 for each of the next two years, with $200,000 in Harvest funding in the third year.

“We are doing well” in becoming self-sustainable, Russo said.

“We’ve set an aggressive goal of being self-supportive, and we are keeping on track,” McGarry said. “It’s not easy, but we are making it.”


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