British Columbia

Canadian Soccer Association won't say why fired national team coach didn't face suspension

CBC News has made multiple requests to the CSA to explain why Birarda's coaching license wasn't suspended in 2008. The organization has not responded.

Bob Birarda continued to coach teen girls after he was fired from the Canadian women's team in 2008

The Canadian Soccer Association has not responded to requests for an explanation as to why Bob Birarda was allowed to keep coaching, despite being fired from two organizations for inappropriate behaviour involving female players.

The Canadian Soccer Association is not saying why a coach it fired for inappropriate behaviour with female players was allowed to continue coaching girls in the Vancouver area. 

Bob Birarda was terminated as head coach of both the under-20 Canadian women's team and Vancouver Whitecaps women's team in 2008, after the two organizations became aware of inappropriate text messages he had sent to players in his charge.

But a few months after being fired, Birarda was back coaching girls at a club team in Twassassen. He continued to coach elite female soccer players in the Vancouver area until being suspended by Coastal FC earlier this year in the wake of former Canadian team and Whitecaps players going public with allegations of abuse, manipulation and inappropriate behaviour.

CBC News has made multiple requests to the Canadian Soccer Association to explain why Birarda's coaching licence wasn't suspended in 2008. The organization has not responded.

When Birarda's departure was announced in 2008 it was described as a mutual parting of ways. 

The CSA news release announcing his replacement said: "The association wishes Mr. Birarda all the best in his future endeavours."

In an interview from April 2019 when the players' allegations first surfaced, former Whitecaps women's team manager Diane Voice told CBC News she phoned an official at the Tsawwassen soccer club in 2008, and told them not to hire Birarda.

Bob Birarda was the head coach of the Canadian U-20 women's national team and Whitecaps women's team in 2007 and 2008. (Canada Soccer)

"They said give me a reason. I said he's been let go by two organizations," said Voice.

"[I said] don't take him, especially not with girls — I couldn't get any plainer than that. And they still said if you don't have anything in writing as to what's really behind all this, then we're taking him," said Voice.

University of Winnipeg professor emeritus and Canadian sport expert Sandra Kirby says there's a pattern of "failure points" that allowed Birarda to keep coaching.

"One failure point would be the CSA's inability to see a way to end his coaching career at that point when they fired him twice," she said.

"It's easier to let them go and say it's a mutual parting of ways or family circumstances or who knows what. But really it's a failure to hit the nail with the hammer. They miss it, and there's no consequence because for them the situation is done."

Kirby says she'd like to see the Coaching Association of Canada create a system that publicizes names and reasons when a coach is sanctioned. 

"I'm in favour of an online list of sanctioned coaches that is readily available to the public. Because without that you don't have any accountability," she said.

A report commissioned by the Whitecaps and released earlier this week said the Whitecaps had no authority or jurisdiction to prevent Birarda from coaching.

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