Players call for FIFA VP's suspension amid Whitecaps sexual-assault allegations

·3 min read
President of CONCACAF Victor Montagliani attends the match of CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A between Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago at AT&T Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Players want FIFA VP Victor Montagliani punished amid allegations of sexual assault against two coaches. (Getty)

Female soccer players are pushing for the suspension of CONCACAF president and FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani, according to the Guardian.

The call comes after an investigation by the Guardian that stated Canada Soccer failed to address multiple allegations of sexual assault against former Vancouver Whitecaps coach Bob Birarda.

The players, who were part of the Whitecaps from 2008-2011, are backed by Canada’s Professional Footballers Association (PFACan) and are also calling for several Whitecaps executives to be fired over the incidents.

Montagliani was vice president of Canada Soccer in 2008, when the allegations first came to light. He later served as president of the organization from 2012 to 2017.

Birarda currently faces six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring over his 20 years as a coach. He was arrested last December and is currently out on bail and hasn't yet entered a plea.

"There were a couple of days of discussions and interviews and after that it was deemed that this coach was no longer with our program," Montagliani said in 2019, adding that the allegations were taken very seriously at the time. 

"He was not an employee of the federation. We would just pay him a per diem as he was coaching. He parted ways with our program and the Whitecaps followed suit in parting ways with him as well. I never saw the report but the information that was given to the board [was sufficient].”

Allegations against Birarda first emerged from Whitecaps players in 2008, when he coached the MLS team and Team Canada's U20 program. The Vancouver club launched an internal investigation at the time, which led to a "mutual agreement" regarding Birarda's parting. However, he continued to coach Team Canada and subsequently worked within the local community, even though Canada Soccer was aware of the allegations against him.

Major League Soccer has stated that it's launched an independent investigation on the Whitecaps involving another set of allegations against coach Hubert Busby Jr.

U.S. player Malloree Enoch told the Guardian that, among other improprieties, Busby tried to pressure her for sex during a recruiting process in 2010. Several other players joined in on accusations since. Busby denies the allegations.

"I welcome the interest of Major League Soccer in these issues but we don’t need MLS to be in charge of this investigation," Enoch told the Guardian. "MLS will only look after its own interests. We need to see a thorough investigation."

According to the Guardian, the Whitecaps simply stated that it was in “the club’s best interest to make a change in coaching staff for our women’s team program” at the time of Busby's departure, going as far as instructing players not to talk publicly about the coach's parting.

Busby currently coaches the Jamaican women's national team and will to meet with the Jamaican Football Federation on Tuesday to discuss the case.

The former Whitecaps players, along with PFACan, are expected to launch a joint statement asking for the dismissal of several key club executives as well as the suspension of Montagliani from his duties with CONCACAF and FIFA until an independent investigation surrounding the events of 2008 is conducted.

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