Toronto Star

Soccer: Former coach charged with sex offences


VANCOUVER— A former coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian women’s teams has been charged with sexual offences involving four people.

The B.C. Prosecutio­n Service said in a statement that Bob Birarda is facing six counts of sexual exploitati­on, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring.

The alleged offences occurred in North Vancouver, Burnaby and West Vancouver between January 1988 and March 2008.

More than a dozen women who played for the Whitecaps and were part of Canada’s under-20 talent pool around 2008 have come forward to allege Birarda, a former coach for both squads, acted inappropri­ately with members of the team.

The allegation­s include rubbing a player’s thigh, sending players sexual text messages, making lewd comments and bullying young women who ignored or spoke out against his behaviour.

None of the allegation­s have been proven in court.

Birarda was dismissed by both the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in October 2008.

Former player Ciara McCormack brought the allegation­s to public attention with a blog post in February 2019, saying neither the Whitecaps nor Canada Soccer adequately investigat­ed when she complained about Birarda’s behaviour.

Hearing that charges had been laid against her former coach came as a surprise, McCormack said Thursday.

“It’s been such a long road to get to where we are,” she said, adding that she got emotional when she heard the news.

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