TORONTO (AP) — Canada Soccer lacked oversight over its under-20 national team and mishandled sexual harassment allegations made against former coach Bob Birarda, according to a report released Thursday.
Canada Soccer commissioned an independent review by McLaren Global Sport Solution. The firm conducted 28 interviews, including with 23 current and former Canada Soccer staff and executives. The result was a 125-page report that detailed the federation’s shortcomings.
“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,” the report said.
The report said that as a result of poor oversight, Birarda abused his position to “groom, intimidate, threaten, and sexually harass certain players.”
“Birarda’s behaviour went unchecked because of the siloed nature of the U-20 WNT in Vancouver, poor comprehension of harassment policies and reporting procedures amongst the players on the team, and Birarda’s facade,” the report said. “He was considered ‘untouchable’ because of his power and influence over the players.”
Canada Soccer parted ways with Birarda in late 2008.
Birarda, also the former coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ women’s team, pleaded guilty in February to sexual assault and sexual touching while in a position of authority, and is awaiting sentencing. The allegations, which spanned from 1988 to 2008, involved four players.
Major League Soccer is also conducting an independent investigation because of Birarda’s connection to the Whitecaps. The report noted that there was no formal agreement between the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer, although many of the under-20 players were on both teams.
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