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Ex-Whitecaps Coaches Bob Birarda, Hubert Busby to Be Subjects of MLS Investigation

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVNovember 5, 2021

Omar Vega/Getty Images

Major League Soccer announced Thursday it's hired the Canadian law firm Rubin Thomlinson to handle an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Hubert Busby Jr. and Bob Birarda, former coaches of the now-defunct Vancouver Whitecaps women's soccer team.

The Associated Press provided a statement from MLS about the scope of the independent investigation:

"The investigation will consider the club's internal processes and overall culture at the time of the allegations, including what steps it took in response to the allegations. The review will also consider the club's current policies and procedures and provide any recommendations on preventative measures to ensure that all players and staff within the Whitecaps organization work in a safe environment, free of all forms of harassment and fear of retaliation."

MLS announced plans for a probe into the matter in late October after former Whitecaps player Malloree Enoch detailed her experiences with Busby in 2010 and 2011 to Matthew Hall of The Guardian.

Enoch explained she reached out to Busby about a potential administrative role with the club when the coach suggested she could potentially join as a player. He set up two meetings under the guise of tryout opportunities, but in both cases no other members of the organization showed up.

Instead, he asked her to stay in the same hotel room as him on three occasions. The third came while he was scouting a tournament in Florida, which is when Enoch said the misconduct occurred.

"He was on all fours fully on the bed. He was definitely aroused. He tried to kiss and touch me. The light was not on but I don't think he had his shirt on. I had to negotiate to get him off the bed. I told him I wasn't interested," Enoch said.

Busby denied the allegations in a statement to The Guardian and said his departure from Vancouver after the 2011 season was because of football reasons: "I was offered a contract renewal and we obviously couldn't come to terms. When I went to discuss the contract renewal we decided to go in another direction."

Enoch said she reported the misconduct to Whitecaps soccer development director Dan Lenarduzzi, but the club took no action. A larger group of players later took overarching concerns about Busby and their treatment to the club.

The investigation has been expanded to include allegations against Birarda, who coached the club from 2006 through 2008.

In February 2019, former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack detailed a wide range of abuse she said Birarda inflicted on her and several fellow players during his time in Vancouver and with the Canadian youth national team.

Birarda was charged in December 2020 with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring related to alleged offenses that ranged from January 1988 through March 2008.

"It's obviously been a very long journey for a lot of us," McCormack said. "There's still a part of me that's very upset about all the cover-ups that went on for years and allowed him to be on the field, and all the lives that were negatively impacted by him."

The Whitecaps women's team dissolved in 2012. The franchise continues to exist through its MLS men's team.

Vancouver chief executive officer Axel Schuster previously told the AP members of the front office who were part of the handling of previous abuse allegations and remain with the organization were placed on administrative review pending the outcome of an investigation.

MLS didn't provide a timetable for how long it will take to complete the probe and didn't say whether the results would be made public.

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