Canada Soccer failed to adequately address sexual harassment allegations made against former Under-20 women’s national team coach Bob Birarda in 2008, an independent review has concluded.
The scandal had rocked Canadian soccer when more than a dozen former Under-20 players came forward and called for an investigation into Birarda, who was also the coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team.
The report said the CSA and Whitecaps conducted a joint investigation but no written final report was issued and that there was no evidence of any actions or player support related to the complaints.
“This review spells out in black and white how the CSA mishandled the 2008 harassment allegations,” said professor Richard McLaren, who led the review.
“It provides a timeline of actions, details how policies were not followed, and outlines a pattern of not documenting decisions that has ultimately resulted in frustration and anger by players that continues today.”
The CSA had publicly announced a “mutual parting of ways” with Birarda in 2008 even though the Executive Committee had voted to terminate Birarda following an investigator’s recommendation that he should no longer be coaching.
Birarda was not banned and continued coaching until 2019, when the players came forward after Canadian-born former Ireland international Ciara McCormack first went public with the claims.
“By not following through with the vote to terminate Birarda for cause, the CSA did a disservice to the players by not acknowledging his harassment as the reason for his removal,” McLaren added.
“There was no acknowledgement of the complaints or their impact on the players. Moreover, failure to terminate Birarda allowed him to continue coaching, putting other players at potential risk.”
Birarda had pleaded guilty earlier this year to three charges of sexual assault and one charge of sexual touching against four women from 1989 to 2008. All four victims were teenagers at the time.
The sentencing hearing is ongoing, with Canadian media reporting it will continue in September.