Independent Review Of Canadian Soccer Association Reveals Failures Concerning 2008 Harassment Complaints Against Coach Bob Birarda

Toronto, Ontario – July 28, 2022 – In a 125-page independent review of the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA), McLaren Global Sport Solutions (MGSS) has detailed the breakdown in processes, inadequate communications and failed institutional response to sexual harassment allegations made in 2008 against former U-20 Women’s National Team coach Bob Birarda.

"This review spells out in black and white how the CSA mishandled the 2008 harassment allegations. It provides a timeline of actions, details how policies were not followed, and outlines a pattern of not documenting decisions that has ultimately resulted in frustration and anger by players that continues today," said Professor Richard McLaren, O.C., CEO of MGSS.

After being informed of the September 2008 complaint, the CSA and Vancouver Whitecaps did conduct a joint investigation. However, there were no written Terms of Reference for this investigation and no written final report was issued. In addition, there is no evidence of any specific actions, due diligence, education, or player support on behalf of the CSA related to the 2008 complaints.

The CSA, informed by legal counsel, publicly announced a “mutual parting of ways” with Birarda in 2008 despite a vote by the Executive Committee to terminate Birarda following the recommendation of the investigator at the time that Birarda should no longer be coaching.

"By not following through with the vote to terminate Birarda for cause, the CSA did a disservice to the players by not acknowledging his harassment as the reason for his removal,” said Professor McLaren. “There was no acknowledgement of the complaints or their impact on the players. Moreover, failure to terminate Birarda allowed him to continue coaching, putting other players at potential risk."

Although there was a policy in place in 2008 to deal with harassment allegations, the review found that there was a complete lack of familiarity with the policy amongst CSA senior officials and that harassment was not a priority issue amongst the senior CSA leadership team in 2008. In addition, there was confusion amongst players about how and where harassment allegations should be reported.

"We hope that our review can be a stepping stone to rebuilding trust amongst players and Canada Soccer. I want to make it clear that our review was conducted in complete independence from Canada Soccer; and, as a condition of our mandate, we were granted the right to publish the final Report in full," said Professor McLaren.

The Independent Review Team conducted a total of 28 interviews including 23 current and former CSA staff and executives. A total of 23 former players were invited to participate in the Review, however only 3 consented to interviews. These interviews corroborated other witness accounts and public statements made by former players in 2019.

This review considered both the organisational and policy context in place at the time within the CSA, and examined the relationship and interaction between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the CSA in responding to the 2008 complaints. The review also includes an assessment of Canada Soccer’s current Safe Sport policies, with recommendations to ensure Safe Sport for all Canada Soccer participants.

"Canada Soccer has made notable progress in improving their Safe Sport policies. They now need to ensure that they are accountable to their own internal policies to ensure that this never happens again," noted Professor McLaren.

Professor McLaren and his team have unparalleled experience in independently examining ethical issues in sport, both in Canada and internationally. In 2021, MGSS published a 414-page report on Independent Approaches to Administer the Universal Code of Conduct to Prevent and Address Maltreatment in Sport in Canada – used to inform the National Independent Mechanism to report abuse in amateur sport (recently renamed Abuse-Free Sport). Other Canadian sport organizations MGSS has consulted with include Gymnastics Canada, Own The Podium, Alpine Canada, Table Tennis Canada, USPORTS, and the Canadian Football League. Internationally, MGSS has recently completed complex independent investigations for international federations in Basketball (FIBA), Boxing (IBA), and Weightlifting (IWF).

About McLaren Global Sport Solutions Inc.:
Founded in 2014, MGSS helps sports organizations, at all levels, build effective and strong management structures that are based on robust governance and ethical frameworks. MGSS is an expert in building customized arbitration and adjudication services as well as developing processes to reduce risks and creating ways of working that prioritize ethical behaviour. Visit our website at

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