The soccer dreams of hundreds of kids have been dashed after Canadian company BCN Sports Services, which operated the popular Barca Academy in six cities across the country, closed up shop after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
In an emailed statement to families at the end of April, BCN Sports Services said it had decided to end the operations of the company, adding it intends to file for voluntary insolvency.
The news was a shock to many Edmonton families who have signed up and paid for programs, including a planned trip to Barcelona, Spain, to take part in the ninth annual Barca Academy World Cup, which had been scheduled for April 6-9.
Parents are angry and looking for answers because money they paid for the programs hasn’t been refunded.
‘It was going to be huge’
Ian Malish and his family had been saving for months and were all set for the trip of a lifetime to Spain.
“This was going to be a big trip for us, we hadn’t been to Europe before,” said Malish, whose nine-year-old son Evan has been a part of the Barca Academy for the last two years.
“This whole World Cup event for us, it was going to be huge.”
In a Barca Academy brochure, the package promised everything from a tour of the iconic Camp Nou stadium, which is home to FC Barcelona, to meals and more.
Malish said his family is in for more than $20,000. So far, none of the money has been refunded.
CBC attempted to reach BCN Sports and the Edmonton academy by phone and email.
An email sent to Edgar Chandre Armengol — who had been listed as BCN Sports’ Canadian project director — received an automated reply stating that Armengol’s account has been disabled and he’s no longer involved with BCN Sports Canada.
Parents of children enrolled in the academies similarly have had no luck reaching the company.
Edmontonian Danny Atkinson paid $500 for his nine-year-old son Tyler to take part in a March spring break camp.
He said he got a call from BCN on March 20 and was told no refunds were being issued because the company needed the money to pay for “other things.”
“I couldn’t believe that they were hanging the entire operation of Barca Academy in Canada on some refunds that were being requested at that time for some spring break camps,” said Atkinson, who has since started a Facebook page for Barca Academy families looking for answers.
The group has filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, with Alberta’s consumer investigation unit and with Edmonton police. Members are also seeking legal advice.
“We’ve reached out to FC Barcelona, ultimately they’re the ones who own this brand name, it’s them who’s being represented by BCN,” added Atkinson.
In an email to families, FC Barcelona acknowledged the situation and said it agrees BCN Sports should be refunding families.
It’s little consolation for Ian Malish and his family. Evan Malish idolizes the club and its megastar, Lionel Messi.
“He’s got the blanket, the poster, the cards. He’s all decked out in Messi gear,” said Ian Malish.
“To have this experience for him where his academy, his friends he’s played with for two years, it’s all disbanded — the end point is everyone’s losing.”