The Vancouver Whitecaps, Major League Soccer and Canada Soccer must take “reasonable steps” against any person who makes serious allegations against former coaches Bob Birarda and Hubert Busby Jr.
The statement was released Monday by the Professional Footballers Association Canada (PFACan) on behalf of the former Whitecaps women’s team players. Earlier attempts by players to pinpoint allegations of abuse and inappropriate behavior by coaches at the Whitecaps and Canada’s youth national teams have been mishandled.
The statement also calls on Concacaf President and Fifa Vice President Victor Montagliani to fully cooperate in a newly proposed joint investigation by Canada Soccer and MLS into allegations against Birarda and Busby. Montagliani was a senior Canada Soccer officer and national team leader at the time of the allegations.
The demands in the declaration are a “moral obligation” for the three organizations involved, according to the players’ union.
“We want to trust the MLS investigation, but we are marked by the dishonest process and silence we have endured from the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer over the past decade,” Ciara McCormack, a former Whitecaps player, told the Guardian .
The statement was issued in response to an announcement by MLS that an investigation would be opened after the Guardian made detailed allegations last month that Busby attempted to solicit sex from a player while coaching the Whitecaps women’s team in 2010 and 2011 was. Players say Whitecaps management then tried to cover up the allegations after Busby left the club. Busby denies the allegations.
Last month, the Whitecaps admitted that “our communication with players, staff and the football community about the reasons for Busby’s departure … was inadequate. We should have done better and we are deeply sorry. ”The Whitecaps say they have suspended several executives in response to the Guardian report.
The MLS investigation is being led by Rubin Thomlinson, a Toronto-based law firm specializing in workplace abuse. The statement calls on the company to take on a previously announced investigation by Canada Soccer into the process behind Birarda’s controversial dismissal.
Birarda was allowed to train young female players after leaving his role with the Whitecaps and Canada in 2008 after internal investigations into his behavior. Birada was arrested in Vancouver last year on charges of six-fold sexual exploitation, two-fold sexual assault, and one child loosening over a 20-year period between 1988 and 2008. The charges against Birarda allegedly involve at least three former football players. He is currently on bail and has yet to file an appeal.
Fifa is also believed to be looking into allegations against Busby, who was suspended as the head coach of the Jamaican women’s national team following the release of the Guardian’s report.
“Anyone found to be involved in decision-making related to publicly misrepresenting the reasons why these coaches were fired or improperly conducted the investigation should be fired from office or forced to sell their team “Said Malloree Enoch, the former Whitecaps player who made the allegations against Busby.
The PFACan’s statement said the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer did nothing to let other teams know why Birarda and Busby were fired from their coaching duties despite allegations against them.
“After reaching out to the same Vancouver Whitecaps leadership and ownership for help, their response was to shut us up, do quiet inquiries without speaking to victims, and coaches with no flag or warning to dismiss for other clubs, “the statement said.
“Canada Soccer was also involved in the secret investigation into Bob Birarda and did nothing to prevent him from coaching other players. As a result, these individuals have returned to coaching at-risk athletes for a good portion of the past decade.
“The reality is that a pattern of negligent conduct at both Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps was unsettling the safety of athletes and neither organization took steps to report the wrongdoing of other clubs.”
The seven-point statement calls on Canada Soccer and MLS to commit to making public any report that emerges from the investigation. PFACan wants the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer to fund the mental health services any former Birarda or Busby player may need.
“It is important that these stories are retold, but it is a heavy emotional burden and brings back many very bad memories for the players,” said Paul Champ, PFACan’s legal advisor. “Nobody has offered psychological support to players in the past.”
A Concacaf spokesman said Montagliani had no direct oversight of Canada national teams at the time of the alleged events, despite being vice president of Canada Soccer national teams at the time of the incidents. According to the spokesman, Montagliani was a fiduciary oversight.
“There is no legal obligation to comply with these demands, but we firmly believe that there is a moral obligation,” said Champ. “Again and again, decisions were made without considering the input of the players. Nobody can really regret it if you don’t listen to the players who were so badly affected. “