Review says Canada Soccer mishandled coach sexual assault allegations

An independent review has concluded that Canada Soccer “mishandled” sexual assault allegations in 2008 against Women’s Under-20 coach Bob Birarda.

McLaren Global Sport Solution’s independent review looked into Canada Soccer’s treatment of Birarda, a former coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada’s national youth team.

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 fired by the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in October 2008.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled to resume in September.

“Very questionable relationship…”

The 125-page report says that without direction or oversight, Birarda led the team “as he saw fit” and engaged “in what should have been identified by the ASC.” [Canadian Soccer Association] such questionable, if not outright prohibited, relationships, communications and activities with his players.”

McLaren’s brief in this case was to review “the institutional response and processes of” Canada Soccer regarding Birarda’s departure in 2008. He was also commissioned to carry out a “review of all current sports policies safety and related issues to identify deficiencies that may require action.”

“This review lays 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 describes a pattern of not documenting decisions that ultimately resulted in player frustration and anger that continues today,” McLaren wrote.

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