Send Ben: Local families not refunded after soccer academy season postponed due to COVID-19

Local families say they were not reimbursed after soccer academy season postponed due to COVID-19

FLORIDA — Spring youth sports are among the thousands of local events postponed or canceled because of COVID-19.

Action News Jax Ben Becker is getting answers for local families who play in the Florida Elite Soccer Academy, where parents say they are not receiving refunds after their season was at-least temporarily postponed.

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One mother said it's “strange to pay for a service, not get the service and not get your money back”

Another mother said she's “deeply disappointed.”

A third mother said, “I paid for group soccer with games.”

“The main guideline is 6 feet apart. You can’t play a game 6 feet apart,” said Sean Bubb, executive of Florida Elite Soccer Academy, which has nearly 7,000 children in St. Johns and Duval counties, where families spend anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars to participate.

However, players are still sitting on the sideline despite an order by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 22 to lift all restrictions on youth activities, including athletics. Officials with both St. Johns and Duval counties also tell Becker that Florida Elite and other youth sports organizations are encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines.

Florida Elite sent an initial email to parents on May 22, saying spring games would not occur and made no mention of a refund.

“Recreational Program Players: Rather than make-up missing Spring season games, we are going to follow CDC guidelines and offer players and coaches a series of intense one hour training sessions, with our professional coaching staff. Recreational players, who participated in the Spring, will also have the option of a 10% reduction in Fall season fees," the email read.

Subsequently, later in the night, Florida Elite sent a follow-up email to parents that walked back the cancellation of the season:

“As many of you have read the email statement from the Club President, I wanted to reach out and provide more details on how the Spring season will progress. As mentioned in the email, this is a dynamic situation and the social distancing requirements and phases could change quickly. To begin with, we will be providing a 5 week Recreational Training Program which will be run by our professional staff. But it is our intention to resume playing games when the government, both state and local, allow it. The email from the Club President was addressing more of the immediate future when we will go back to just training. That said, if we are able to resume games, we will likely have to modify teams and games based on availability as we completely understand that everyone may not be able to attend or choose not to participate. We will keep you updated and informed on those plans.”

“Our recreation kids will get the same training as our select travel kids who play at a high level,” said Bubb, adding that it amounts to private coaching, a value more than most registration fees that have not been refunded. Not to mention, Florida Elite still has to incur costs running the program that never went away during the pandemic.

Bubb is hopeful games could return in a couple of weeks but is not ruling out refunds if they do not.

“If it did not, Ben, we would obviously revisit things,” said Bubb.

Florida Elite also told Becker it has not laid off any people during the pandemic.