Review says Canada Soccer mishandled sexual harassment allegations against coach

·1 min read

TORONTO — An independent review has concluded that Canada Soccer "mishandled" sexual harassment allegations in 2008 against then under-20 women's coach Bob Birarda.

The independent review by McLaren Global Sport Solution looked into Canada Soccer's handling of Birarda, a former women's Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian national youth team coach.

Birarda is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in February to three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching while in a position of authority.

The charges, which involve four teenage soccer players coached by Birarda, span 20 years between 1988 and 2008. Birarda was dismissed by both the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in October 2008.

A sentencing hearing is expected to resume in September.

The 125-page report says with no direction or oversight, Birarda ran the team "as he saw fit," and engaged "in what should have been identified by CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) as highly questionable if not flatly proscribed relationships, communications, and activities with his female players."

McLaren's brief in this case was to review "the institutional response and processes of" Canada Soccer with respect the departure of Birarda in 2008. It was also tasked with conducting a "review of all current safe sport and related policies to identify gaps that may require action."

"This review spells out in black and white how the CSA mishandled the 2008 harassment allegations. 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," McLaren wrote.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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