A blog post by former Ireland international and Vancouver Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack 12 months ago shined a light on how Canada Soccer – the governing body of the sport in the country – and Major League Soccer club Vancouver Whitecaps failed to adequately address decade-long allegations by 14 high-level players of abuse by an elite coach working for both their organizations.
Although the coach left Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps by “mutual consent” after a flawed internal enquiry at the time, he was still allowed to continue working with female youth players in Canada.
But as McCormack points out in this interview with The Guardian, so many questions remain unanswered and so few people have been held accountable for lack of action. That lack of accountability goes from the grassroots clubs the coach – Bob Birarda – was employed by to the Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada Soccer, and even regional body CONCACAF.
“At the end of the day no one was held accountable for anything and a national team coach who was fired for sexually harassing players went right back into the community to coach for another 10 years,” McCormack said. “You can do the most atrocious things and not be held accountable.”
Bob Birarda was coach of both the U-20 national team and Vancouver Whitecaps Women side at the time of the allegations that included rubbing a player’s thigh in a car, sending sexually suggestive text messages to players, demanding one-on-one meetings with players he had cut from his team in his hotel room, and telling a player during a half-time talk how he thought her body looked in a wet white team jersey.
“The most valuable thing to come out of this whole experience is that it created a case study for how the system is set up to not hold anyone accountable,” McCormack said.