Former players, who urge Canada Soccer and the Vancouver Whitecaps to assume responsibility for sexual misconduct allegations against two former coaches, are calling for senior international soccer manager Victor Montagliani to be suspended pending an investigation at Canada Soccer.
Montagliani is President of the Confederation of the North, Central American and Caribbean Football Associations (CONCACAF) and Vice President of FIFA. He is also a native of Vancouver and a past president of BC Soccer and Canada Soccer.
Montagliani was Canada Soccer National Team Director in 2008 when Canada’s Under-20 women’s team coach Bob Birarda was tacitly sacked after players complained of inappropriate behavior.
Birarda was also sacked as the head coach of the Whitecaps women’s team at the same time.
Canada Soccer did not suspend Birarda’s coaching license and he began coaching girls in the Vancouver area within a few months. In December 2020, he was charged with nine sex offenses that are believed to have occurred between 1988 and 2008.
Canada Soccer has said little about the circumstances surrounding Birarda’s departure and only agreed to an investigation after Canada’s Olympic gold medal women’s football team requested it.
Players are not supposed to talk about the coach’s dismissal
Former Whitecaps player Ciara McCormack, who was whistleblower for Birarda in 2019, is a member of the group of players calling for Montagliani’s suspension.
Including Malloree Enoch, who spoke to the Guardian last week about being sexually assaulted and assaulted by another coach on the Whitecaps women’s team – Hubert Busby, Jr. – in 2010 and 2011.
Hubert Busby Jr. is pictured in a 2010 CBC interview. After an internal investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, the Vancouver Whitecaps fired Busby in 2011 as a coach. (CBC)
Enoch drew the Whitecaps’ attention to many of the allegations in an email to the club in April 2011. Later in the year, after an internal investigation, the Whitecaps quietly released Busby and emailed players not to speak of his sacking.
“We have been silenced, we shouldn’t talk about it and pretend life is normal and move on,” Enoch told CBC News in an earlier interview.
Like Birarda, Busby quickly switched to other jobs as a coach for women.
He is currently the head coach of the Jamaican women’s national team. The Jamaican Football Association should deal with the allegations against Busby on Tuesday.
Birarda did not respond to several requests for comment. He has not made a plea and the charges have not been considered in court. CBC could not reach Busby for comment. In the Guardian article, he denied all of Enoch’s allegations.
In a written statement from CONCACAF on Tuesday, the organization said that both Montagliani and CONCACAF said Canada Soccer’s new review of the 2008 investigation into allegations that the coach sent inappropriate text messages to members of Canada’s U20 women’s national team was “full and fully support ”.
Montagliani was a “non-executive director” of the Canadian Soccer Association in 2008 and was reportedly not responsible for its day-to-day operations or oversight, and the board unanimously recommended the coach’s termination after the investigation.
“Mr Montagliani believes that he and his fellow board members took the appropriate steps at the time to support the CSA on this very serious matter,” the statement said.
Player group demands transparency
The group of players is supported by the Professional Footballers Association of Canada (PFACan).
PFACan’s advisor Paul Champ said that by acting together, players will be able to better deal with the power imbalance they have experienced in the past and present in seeking answers from Canada Soccer and the Whitecaps.
“We see it as a help to these players in a historical problem, but we also see it as an opportunity to improve the system in Canada for all players in the future,” he said.
“There is a lot of pain. Everyone, except the players, has a certain responsibility. And where we want to work constructively in the future, we have to ensure transparency about what has happened in the past.”
Champ said the group would issue a formal statement in the next few days.
Whitecaps manager on leave
Late Friday, Axel Schuster, CEO of Vancouver Whitecaps, announced that unnamed members of the club’s leadership team would be on administrative leave pending an MLS investigation into the club’s handling of Busby’s dismissal.
2011 Whitecaps board members who remain with the club today include Greg Anderson, Bob Lenarduzzi, Dan Lenarduzzi, and Rachel Lewis.
Schuster told CBC it was not fair to determine which executives were on administrative leave.
McCormack, following Schuster’s lead, said the players requesting Montagliani’s suspension will not be identified.