British Columbia

Former players want investigation into Vancouver Whitecaps to include Canada Soccer

"The reality is that a pattern of negligent leadership at both Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps left athletes unsafe," says a statement released Monday.

Players allege a 'pattern of negligent leadership at both Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps'

Former women's Whitecaps players are asking that the investigation launched by Major League Soccer into the the Vancouver Whitecaps also look at Canada Soccer.

The soccer players who went public with allegations of sexual misconduct against two former high level Canadian women's team coaches say investigators hired by Major League Soccer to look into the Vancouver Whitecaps should also examine the actions of Canada Soccer.

In a statement, the Professional Footballers Association of Canada (PFACan), which represents former Whitecaps women's team players, said both the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer need to answer for a culture of silence and secrecy that allowed Bob Birarda and Hubert Busby Jr. to continue coaching after evidence of their troubling behaviour toward female players was brought to light over a decade ago.

"The reality is that a pattern of negligent leadership at both Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps left athletes unsafe, and both organizations failed to take steps to flag the misconduct to other clubs," said the statement.

"Clubs, parents and players had no knowledge or warning of these coaches' history because there was no system in place to flag misconduct and the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer were not transparent to the public about the reasons behind their departure."

Last week, MLS announced it had hired the firm Rubin Thomlinson LLP to investigate the Vancouver Whitecaps handling of Birarda and Busby.

Busby was quietly dismissed from the Whitecaps in 2011 after player Malloree Enoch brought forward complaints of sexual coercion. Players were told not to speak publicly of his departure.

Last week Busby was provisionally suspended as head coach of the the Jamaican women's national team after Enoch did an interview with the British publication the Guardian.

In 2008, Birarda was quietly let go from his dual positions as under-20 Canadian women's national team head coach and Whitecaps women's team head coach after players complained of inappropriate behaviour.

In 2019 he was charged with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring related to alleged incidents between 1988 and 2008.

Among the seven actions listed in the release, PFACan is asking that the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer agree to provide all relevant documentation to investigators, including any non-disclosure or departure agreements signed with Birarda and Busby.

It also wants CONCACAF and FIFA to both confirm that Victor Montagliani will cooperate with the investigation.

Montagliani, a former president of Canada Soccer and B.C. Soccer, and current president of CONCACAF and vice president of FIFA, has denied he had a key role in Birarda's quiet departure from Canada Soccer in 2008.

A statement from CONCACAF said Montagliani was a non-executive board member of Canada Soccer in 2008 when the initial investigation into Birarda was conducted, and that he was not responsible for overseeing national teams.

Montagliani's LinkedIn profile says from 2005 to 2012 he held the position of "Vice President; National Teams" at Canada Soccer.

PFACan is also asking the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer to agree to fund one year of mental health services for former players under Birarda or Busby who require help.

On Oct. 23, Soccer Canada announced it had agreed to initiate a "transparent, third-party investigation of allegations against Bob Birarda during the time he was employed by Canada Soccer," after the 2020 Olympic champion women's soccer team demanded it.