Rams head coach Howie Zaron, seen here in a team training video, has been charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. He says he is innocent. (Facebook image)

Lower Mainland football head coach faces drug charge

Howie Zaron charged with possession of cocaine, president saying team standing behind him

Head coach of the Langley Rams football team has been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking, Mounties confirmed this week. But he maintains his innocence.

Howie Zaron, 45, who coached the Rams to the Canadian Bowl in 2019, has been charged after a Langley RCMP drug section investigation led to a search of a home and vehicle in Brookswood in April.

“I strongly believe that the charge is not going to stick,” Zaron told the Langley Advance Times.

“My friends and family know who I am, and this is not it,” Zaron said.

The April searches by police turned up a small amount of cocaine, packaged in what Cpl. Holly Largy said was 17 “flaps,” some cash, packaging materials, and a small scale. It was a relatively small-scale bust, according to the RCMP.

Langley RCMP announced the charges a week ago, on July 16, but did not release Zaron’s name at the time. An anonymous tip advised the Langley Advance Times that Zaron had been charged.

Zaron said he has done nothing wrong, and he will not step aside from his coaching post unless he is asked to do so. He expressed concern about the damage his arrest will have on local minor football.

His lawyer, David Milburn, said Zaron just found out about the charge on Wednesday, July 22 and he hasn’t yet seen disclosure from Crown counsel.

READ MORE: Charges laid three months after Brookswood drug search

Zaron is expected to appear in Surrey Provincial Court to face the charges on Aug 4.

Dana Matheson, president of the Langley Rams, said he was unaware of the charge before he was contacted by the Langley Advance Times on Wednesday, July 22.

But, he confirmed, the club’s board of directors has clear protocols that any coach facing criminal charges is automatically suspended until the case is resolved.

“Our board, it’s probably worth noting, has decided that any time there’s a legal issue that comes up with any coaches, until the investigation is complete… I mean we’ve never been in this situation before, but this is how we operate as a board, any time something like this does comes up the coach is suspended until further notice – until the charges are either dropped or we get further knowledge of anything.”

Matheson said the justice system has to have time to run its course, and verified that this means Zaron is suspended until further notice.

“We had no prior knowledge of this…,” Matheson added.

“We have no details at all and really no comments about anything to do with it because we didn’t know. We were completely blindsided. We’ve never known coach Zaron to have any issues. He’s never caused us any problems. He’s been A1 as a football coach and he’s always said what he’s done, and done what he said. He’s had an unblemished record with us,” he said.

“Every season, we run a criminal record check on every coach who takes the field, so on that end, we definitely do our due diligence to make sure there’s no history of anything before we hire any coaches to work with kids,” Matheson elaborated. “That’s been done every single year – obviously. And his name was never associated with anything other than, I guess going way back into the ’90s.”

Zaron has been before the courts in B.C. before, but not for many years. In 1996, he was found guilty of a 1995 assault. Zaron would have been approximately 19 at the time of the incident.

“Nothing has been on our radar… Coach Howie has been with us the last two, two-and-a-half years now. He’s been a role model coach and he’s been a model coach and there’s been absolutely no red flags with him or no issue, no concerns, no problems, no nothing,” the president said.

A member of the B.C. football community for more than 20 years, Zaron joined the Rams in 2017 when he was named the new general manager, with Matt Blokker as head coach.

He’d coached with Langley Minor Football and North Surrey Minor, winning B.C. Community Football Championships.

A Langley native, Zaron was also head coach of the Valley Huskers from 2006 to 2009, and won back-to-back Ranji Mattu Awards as BCFC coach of the year in both 2007 and 2008.

By the 2018 season, Zaron had become interim head coach, a position that became permanent. He oversaw multiple winning seasons for the Rams.

“We are with our coach, and we believe in him,” the president added. “Hopefully nothing more comes of it, and we can get him back on the sidelines,” Matheson concluded.

READ MORE: How football players practice without breaking social distancing rules

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