Footballers demand the suspension of a high-ranking sports executive pending investigation
Former players calling Canada Soccer and the Vancouver Whitecaps to account over allegations of sexual misconduct against two former coaches call for suspension of international soccer executive Victor Montagliani, pending investigation results at Canada Soccer.
Montagliani is President of the Confederation of Football Associations of North America, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) and Vice-President of FIFA. He is also a native of Vancouver and past president of BC Soccer and Canada Soccer.
Montagliani was director of the national teams for Canada Soccer in 2008 when the coach of the Canadian women’s under-20 team, Bob Birarda, was quietly fired over complaints from players of inappropriate behavior.
Birarda was also released as the head coach of the Whitecaps women’s team at the same time.
Canada Soccer did not suspend Birarda’s coaching license and he started coaching girls in the Vancouver area within months. In December 2020, it was charged with nine sexual offenses which would have taken place between 1988 and 2008.
Canada Soccer said little about the circumstances surrounding Birarda’s departure and only agreed to an investigation after The Canadian Olympic gold medalist women’s soccer team demanded it.
Players said not to talk about the coach’s sacking
Former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack, Birarda’s 2019 whistleblower, is a member of the group of players calling for Montagliani’s suspension.
Much like Malloree Enoch, who last week spoke to the guard of being sexually coerced and assaulted by another Whitecaps women’s coach – Hubert Busby, Jr. – in 2010 and 2011.
Enoch informed the Whitecaps of numerous allegations in an email sent to the club in April 2011. After an internal investigation, the Whitecaps quietly let Busby go later that year and told the players in an email not to not talk about his dismissal.
“We were silenced, told not to talk about it and act like life is normal and move on,” Enoch told CBC News in a previous interview.
Like Birarda, Busby quickly moved into other women’s coaching jobs.
He is currently the head coach of the Jamaican Women’s National Team. The Jamaican Football Association is due to respond to the Busby allegations on Tuesday.
Birarda did not respond to multiple requests for comment. He did not plead guilty and the charges were not tested in court. CBC could not reach Busby for comment. In the Guardian article, he denied all of Enoch’s claims.
In a written statement from CONCACAF on Tuesday, the organization said Montagliani and CONCACAF “will fully support” Canada Soccer’s new review of the 2008 investigation into allegations that the coach sent inappropriate text messages to members of Canada’s National Women’s U20 team.
Montagliani was a “non-executive board member” of the Canadian Soccer Association in 2008 and was not responsible for day-to-day operations or oversight, the statement said, and the board recommended to l ‘unanimity to terminate the coach’s employment after the investigation.
“Mr. Montagliani believes that he and his colleagues on the board of directors at the time took the appropriate measures to support the CSA in this very serious matter,” the statement said.
A group of players calls for transparency
The group of players is supported by the Professional Football Association of Canada (PFACan).
PFACan attorney Paul Champ said that by acting collectively, players can better deal with the power imbalance they have experienced historically and today by seeking answers from Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps.
“We see it as helping these players with a historic problem, but we also see it as being able to improve the system in Canada for all players in the future,” he said. declared.
“There is a lot of pain there. Everyone except the players has some responsibility. And where we want to work constructively going forward is to make sure that there is transparency about what has happened in the past. “
Champ said the group will issue an official statement in the coming days.
Whitecaps executives put on leave
Late Friday, Vancouver Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster announced that anonymous members of the club’s management team were put on administrative leave pending an MLS investigation on how the club handled Busby’s sacking.
Members of the Whitecaps executive in 2011 who remain with the club today include Greg Anderson, Bob Lenarduzzi, Dan Lenarduzzi and Rachel Lewis.
Schuster told CBC it wouldn’t be fair to identify which executives were put on administrative leave.
McCormack said that following Schuster’s lead, players requesting Montagliani’s suspension will not be identified.