Bob Birarda done as Womens Whitecaps/ CSA Womens U-20 Gaffer

johnnybluenose

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Whitecaps part ways with women's coach Birarda

CSA announces veteran bench boss has also left job as coach of Canada's under-20 women's team


Canwest News Service

Published: Friday, October 10, 2008
The Vancouver Whitecaps announced Thursday that they have parted ways with women's team head coach Bob Birarda.
"This was a mutual decision," the Whitecaps stated in a news release. "The Whitecaps and Mr. Birarda agree that it is in the best interest of both parties. Current Whitecaps staff will take over Mr. Birarda's duties on an interim basis."
Birarda also has left Canada's under-20 women's soccer team a little more than a month before the squad will take part in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup.



Birarda led Canada to the CONCACAF championship in June, but the Canadian Soccer Association announced Thursday he won't be guiding the team at the upcoming World Cup in Chile.
"The departure was a mutual decision which the association and Mr. Birarda agreed was in the best interest of both parties," the CSA said in news release.
Birarda coached the Whitecaps to the USL W-League championship in 2006, but the team failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2007 and was eliminated in the conference playoffs this year.
Assistant coach Ian Bridge will replace Birarda on the sidelines for the tournament, which begins Nov. 19. Canada is in a group with Japan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Bridge has also been an assistant coach on the women's national team the past two seasons and coached the under-20 team at World Cups in 2002, 2004 and 2006. He guided the Canadian team to a second-place finish in Edmonton in 2002.
Birarda took the Canadian team to Melipilla, Chile last month for a training camp and tournament. Canada went undefeated, beating Mexico and Chile and drawing with New Zealand.

Whitecaps part ways with women's coach Birarda
 

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Been shouting on Twatter and now FB. Tired fingers, and I'm sitting at YVR waiting for a flight. Here was my FB Post:

This hasn’t really hit Facebook, but essential reading for anyone involved with girls soccer. This story needs to be told!

https://ciaramccormack.com/…/a-horrific-canadian-soccer-sto….

Thanks @ciaramccormack for having the guts to tell the story. I hope more ladies follow suit. Stay strong.

Coaches: our highest priority is mentorship. It’s an absolute, unbreakable promise. We are put into a leadership role and ask our parents to trust us with their children. It’s a massive responsibility. If your first concern is advancing your career and collecting championships or podiums, you’ve missed the plot. Worse, breaching that trust in any way, well, you should expect to be skewered- just like “Coach Billy” is now and anyone associated.
 
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Canucks4Ever

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That said...guys, this needs to be discussed. All TTPing aside, that was completely fcuked....
Ok I'll go.

Of course, like most of us, I know "Coach Billy". Not particularly well, but if you were involved in footy in the lower mainland during that stretch you knew/know him. I first met him when he was at TSS and I happened to work at Coastal for a few years after he got hired there.

Gotta say, if the Whitecaps/CSA were looking to bury this I would say they did a pretty decent job (up until now of course) because I never got a whiff of this. True I was a lot younger (as we all were) and probably not as connected to the same channels and feedback loops as I might be now, but I never even heard murmurs back then. In fact, all I ever heard was the opposite. The girls he coached all loved him, they loved his sessions, they loved playing on his teams; nothing but good things to say. Even Ciara in her blog ripping him apart talked about that he was a "very very good coach" and that she loved the training environment he created.

That being said, I get that he played mind games, If you haven't clicked on some of the links within the blog post that bring up copies of emails you really should, as they are worth a read. In particular the two plus page rant that he sent to the player that Ciara discussed who did not want to live in certain accommodations and be responsible for a new player, etc.

I feel that here is where it is important to parse the story.

On one hand there is essentially what is provable, which is that "Coach Billy" clearly had various coaching tactics that may or may not be considered heavy handed or even bullying. On the other is the inference that there may have been some level of sexual misconduct occurring concurrently.

When it comes to the sexual misconduct stuff Ciara is very careful to say that she has only second hand accounts of what allegedly occurred and no first hand experience or concrete evidence. This is no doubt why she is not explicitly naming names, as there could be liability for libel and defamation if none of this is provable (to be honest it is not hard to figure out who it is she is discussing, we all did pretty quickly, so there is precedent that she may not be shielded from actions in libel, etc. but that is a matter for the courts if and when it gets there. Though, assuming this has the impact on his career that it looks like it will have, ie not being able to get a job in soccer any longer, I would say there is a fairly good chance this ends up in court...). If and when others step up with first hand accounts of sexual wrongdoing, that will change the game here. Ciara's strongest argument seems to be that there was clearly enough smoke for the Whitecaps/CSA to let him go because of the internal investigation that they did, so, therefore, there must be fire. Unfortunately, while she may well be right, the public does not know what the results of that internal investigation were, nor do we know the precise reasons why he was let go. We can speculate all we like, but there is nothing criminal in this at this point. That might change as we move forward, but, for now, it has to be innocent until proven guilty.

It does speak to Ciara's wider ranging point that there is a natural flaw in how these types of allegations are handled. This discussion might fall under the scope of the ever growing #MeToo discussion. If the allegations are as serious as she implies, why were police not called? Why was there no third party investigation? The cultural of wanting to keep potentially damaging "scandals" in house and away from the public is certainly not exclusive to the Whitecaps and CSA; we have seen this over recent months with other high profile stories of this nature that are slowly leaking out from the corporate and other sectors. I think these are all questions that need to be asked and I agree that there likely needs to be a better method how we as a society address and investigate them. What that looks like I don't know; maybe we can tease it out if there is further discussion.

The other branch of this goes to the way "Coach Billy" and the Whitecaps treated their players in using the power they had over them in what she clearly feels were manipulative and heavy handed ways. Obviously the soccer landscape was different back then, particularly in the women's game. Using the Whitecaps women for unpaid public appearances, etc. enters a grey area. At what point does it go from being just a part of the responsibility of being on a professional/semi professional team that relies on public interest to survive, to crossing into exploitation for the purposes of simply furthering the brand. Clearly the girls felt that it had become the later and they tried to organize, only for management to get wind of their plan and break up their potential pseudo-unionizing. That is a story as old as time though, with the workers fighting against the management etc. It does speak to the power dynamic in this case, however, and opens the door to criticize the Whitecaps business model, though that too is already well tread ground.

Then there are the allegations of bullying and making players cry and pressuring them to skip school, etc. The "I am the only reason you have these chances and I can make it all go away and destroy you" type attitude that seems to be prevalent. Basically, psychologically manipulating the players into getting what the coach wants out of them and then being willing to totally discard them at the drop of the hat. I am not sure this is new either to be honest though. This may be a particularly glaring example of putting too much power in too few peoples hands, but I think we have seen this across many sports, not just in soccer. I have certainly seen other "high level" coaches that are happy to try and dictate what players can and cannot do, wielding this seemingly massive amount of power over them. I personally have never been comfortable with coaching in that way, but that's just me. Certainly "Coach Billy" is out winning National Championships and coaching at the CSA/Whitecaps level professionally and I am not, so maybe that speaks for itself. Some people may see these sorts of tactics as part of what it takes to "be a winner." We all know that not everyone is cut out to be a top level athlete and perhaps these sorts psychological "challenges" help separate the wheat from the chaff.

I am not sold on that line of thinking. Particularly when it comes to young adults/adolescents who are still maturing. Sports have a hierarchy and the coach definitely has the power. For young players growing up, most of them likely do not have enough life experience to know when the coach is out of line or that they do have a right to stand up to authority figures if there are things with which they are not comfortable. For those dreaming of making it to the top it is tough to know that there are other ways to make it other than what these people who have the power in your world are telling you. It is all very convoluted and, again, goes beyond just the soccer world. These young people are in a vulnerable environment and it is made even more vulnerable if there is not proper oversight. Creating these massive power imbalances allows for a culture where these sorts of incidents become normalized. Hence the point Ciara made about the next coach allegedly using his power to fly a girl across the country under false pretenses and all but force her to spend the night with him.

Will we see any sort of meaningful investigation into these incidents? Only time will tell. Certainly the wagons are circling as the various clubs, etc. issue their boilerplate press releases trying to distance themselves from this. For me the most damning action so far has been from CSA in removing his profile from their website. As far I have seen they have not released a statement (maybe they have and I missed it) but for them to clearly be aware of this situation bubbling under the surface in the Twittersphere and try to almost quietly erase him from their archives speaks volumes IMO. Not sure "Coach Billy" needs to be the scapegoat for what was/is a broken system of power dynamics and manipulation that is widespread throughout sport, but maybe sometimes you have to shoot a hostage. Again if the sexual aspect of the allegations gain more credence then this takes a whole different turn. Unfortunately, if that aspect does come to the forefront, it may be a lot easier for the organizations to simply play the "one bad apple" card and not evaluate the systemic issues that contributed to all this.

Anyway, lots to talk about if anybody else wants to jump in. I think at the very least if even a small amount of discussion takes place it should hopefully help to move things in the right direction.

Found this online: https://www.thevoyageurs.org/forums/topic/16435-vs-help-needed/

Looks like the discussion did not exactly go far when this happened in real time, so maybe we can do better now.

One of the people I feel bad for is his daughter though. She would have been very young when all this occurred and surely completely shielded from it. To go from winning a national championship with your dad as the coach in October to having this drop on your world has to be shattering.
 
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FC Red Star

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Good comments Canucks4Ever. We live in a society where it is very easy to destroy somebody’s career. You start a rumour, it gets wings, and then instead of “innocent until proven guilty” it becomes “guilty until proven innocent”.

In today’s era of social media it is very easy to manipulate “news” and create hell for somebody. Media, who long time ago abandoned investigative journalism and started chasing juicy stories instead, is one of the biggest reasons why all this is happening.

One thing is for certain – this deserves a thorough investigation. We, as a society, tend to side with potential victim without thinking too much about the background of the whole story. Hopefully this story will be professionally investigated and we will be able to point fingers based on facts.

At the end of the story somebody should be held responsible for his/her own actions.
 

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I'll keep my comments relatively brief because not only have I had a multitude of youth soccer hats during the impugned time period, but my cousin was a player under (probably not the best metaphor but whatever) BB in her pre-scholarship days. Let's just say she's team Ciara, at least in terms of the "he was a great coach but also a complete cnut of a bully" part of it...

ANYWAY... I think organizations need to be very careful about what they say about this. No doubt everyone has lawyered up at this point, in anticipation of a lawsuit from either a) Ciara or b) BB.

The problem for Ciara is that much of what she posts about is hearsay. With the exception of the allegation that 29 year old BB was banging a 15 year old player of his, there's nothing I can see that crosses from completely inappropriate to criminal (and, for what it's worth, the only rumour that ever visited my ears in all my years was in respect of a late teens player of BB, not a 15 year old - still very bad if true but not as bad as 29 and 15, frankly)...

There's another infamous coach from back in 2011 that she pillories; takes about 30 seconds to figure out who that is if you really want to. The point is, defamation by innuendo is just as actionable as coming right out and naming names, and anyone who piles on publically is arguably open to being added as a Defendant if BB really wants to get rolling...

The more interesting thing for me is the monopoly over the "pathway" - which has been hammered into everyone for over a decade now and something the CSA, BC and the Whitecaps couldn't begin to hope to talk their way out from if their lives depended on it. I always found it amusingly arrogant for the powers that be to claim superiority over the rest of us while the CMNT was ranked directly between Burkina Faso and Botswana... in retrospect, it may have helped create an even darker environment for the young ladies in the program(s).

If Ciara and perhaps others really were raising these issues for years, and they were ignored by everyone involved... well, that certainly needs to be addressed in a meaningful way...
 

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The problem for Ciara is that much of what she posts about is hearsay. With the exception of the allegation that 29 year old BB was banging a 15 year old player of his, there's nothing I can see that crosses from completely inappropriate to criminal (and, for what it's worth, the only rumour that ever visited my ears in all my years was in respect of a late teens player of BB, not a 15 year old - still very bad if true but not as bad as 29 and 15, frankly)...
I read that part of her blog post as being about a different unnamed provincial coach.

The blog post is compelling for sure, and definitely shines a light on the power imbalance a lot of coaches/organizations have over their athletes. Some of the bullying tactics and forcing players to bend to their will actually echo stories I've heard from players at a certain USports program in town. Maybe they're not to the same degree that BB could manage with the threat of jeopardizing a national team spot, but the threat of losing a scholarship is still impactful on varsity athletes. Again these coaches should not be allowed to operate with their influence and control unchecked.

Regarding the legal side of this whole thing, I though this tweet was interesting.


Unless there were actual girls that were sexually harassed and they come forward, Ciara and anyone else piling on that aspect of the story may have opened themselves up to repercussions.
 

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I don’t have a daughter and I wouldn’t touch the female game with a 10 foot pole. It doesn’t take a genius to say that players shouldn’t feel that they are being bullied or threatened by a coach. Some of the stuff for me isn’t crazy far off what I would expect at the professional level at this time. Cut throat and more about the paid coaches careers then the players who are making peanuts. Do as I say and I’ll get you where you want to go, don’t and all this sacrifice will be for nothing. Massive power imbalance.
It says a lot about where the women’s game was at the time as well. No money in it and players sarcaficing for the passion of the game. Sounds like it was a pretty awful environment if this is how the players were all feeling. The sexual stuff I’m not touching as until someone comes out with facts it feels like hearsay at best. Not saying it is or isn’t true just a lot of heard from a friend stuff.

Takes a lot of bravery for her to come out and hopefully if it’s true her friends and ex teammates back her up. Otherwise I don’t feel there is much concrete here and I’m sure lawyers are a coming. If there is something here, I don’t see how this doesn’t blow up Bobby and a lot of people in the Caps organization. As they have continued to allow him to coach the main pipe line into the caps organization without blowing the whistle.
 

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I’m having a tough time with this one. I don’t want to touch some of these accusations even though I have heard some first hand accounts that are even worse than the blog.

How this guy was able to keep a coaching position in this province speaks volumes. It seems at every level there’s someone in a position of power who isn’t qualified to occupy that position.
 

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It's like someone who is running a business and has a salesperson who is just killing it. Although the salesperson is stepping out a line. Greed takes over too many times at this point in life.

He is a serial winner. Won everywhere he went (these are not coincidences). Probably the best coach I have ever come across in my entire life by a country mile. Although if he did do any of the stuff that was implied (not proven) then that is not acceptable (not referring to the strict coaching she didn't like). Although, you wonder how much of it is this girl trying to gain online followers, pushing for her own power (unionizing of players as mentioned above), and realizing she wasn't good enough for the national team so took a swipe on her way out the door.

Is his treatment to the same level of the hairdryer treatment Ferguson would give at united? Brian Clough as a manager blind siding roy keane? Probably not even close (not counting any sexual allegations as that is not proven at this point).

If what she's saying is true and all these teammates were confiding in her then now's the time for them to jump to her defense or they can hang her out to dry which would say something about her.

If everyone shared her complaints then they should have been uplifted when he got pushed out right before the world cup. Instead they crashed and burned right after he left. Seems odd why they would do worse if he was the sole problem.

If he did any of the inappropriate stuff insinuated then it is beyond disgusting and he should never be allowed near a woman's team again. Although, none of us can pass any judgement without more concrete information than what's out right now. All hearsay at this point but having said that for him to be pushed out by all does make you think that either people are giving into political pressure or someone actually has something that was shared.
 

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where the Caps and the CSA / BC could have some problems is if his current club did their due diligence before hiring him (spoiler; pretty sure they did)... if they asked about potential issues and were told there were none, and that wasn't completely true, well... we get into shades of grey pretty fast but it's like five guys standing around a pipe that's about to burst... when it eventually does, they all get some level of crap on them...
 

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Mtbk, that was my thought as well. However isn’t it policy that a previous employer can’t say negative things that could prevent you from getting a job? I believe all they can say is somewhere along the line of no comment. So as long as there wasn’t something sexual proven, I’m not so sure they had to say anything.
 

mtkb

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well, between Coastal's statement and the updated Whitecap statement, something is rotten in the state of Denmark...
 

mtkb

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Mtbk, that was my thought as well. However isn’t it policy that a previous employer can’t say negative things that could prevent you from getting a job? I believe all they can say is somewhere along the line of no comment. So as long as there wasn’t something sexual proven, I’m not so sure they had to say anything.
sure, but if the question of "were there any improprieties" is met with a "no comment", you'd have to essentially be wilfully blind to hire the person and say "gee we had no indication at all"... I don't practice employment law, but I'm pretty sure a previous employer can say negative things in some contexts - otherwise how would blind reference checks ever get done...
 
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So what hard facts have been layed down?
Kind of get lost in the blog as there is attacks on the caps, BB, the new coach that had a female stay in the same hotel room, and the overall pressure/tactics/power the caps and BB had over them.

If you have 1000 players that would love to join that training environment. And some players are complaining, I too would say beat it then, your replaceable. There’s 1000 others who would love to wear the caps shirt and do community events.

Yes lots needs to improve. And I like the light that it shines on areas to improve.

But this guy is now ruined. But what is concrete or in writing on these allegations?
You’d hope people are innocent until proven guilty. I’ve heard nothing but positives on how great this coach is. He just won the Nationals with his daughters team. I’m sure every player on that team will have the fondest memories of this past season. Daughter included.
Where is the support from his current team?

I don’t like how everyone was so quick to throw his name through the dirt. One blog post and your destroyed? Two sides to everything in life and everyone’s stories should be heard before people attacking people. I am sure there are truths to Ciara’s “blog” post. But how the hell is everyone taking it as gospel with out truly knowing “facts”.

I as a coach challenge players and try to press buttons to get them going. I know lots of the guys don’t like me or the style at times, but it comes with being the coach. You don’t need to liked and their friends. Some of the blog seems like he was just a hard ass coach that squeezed every drop he could out of the players to get results.

In the real world my boss does the same. Some of the tactics I don’t agree with. But I can quit and go elsewhere if I don’t like it. That’s life sometimes. Our local pathway has to go through the caps/BC soccer. That’s how it is. It sucks. It’s wrong. It should change. But if a coach knows that, and it’s actually how it is. How could he not use that to his advantage at times. I think most people would.
You want a chance at the national team. This is what you need to do. (I’m talking football, not touching the hear say on the sexual stuff)

Hey new kid. You want a chance at playing time. This is how you’ll get it. It happens everywhere in the world. You need to know people to get Looks and interviews and chances in life.

You want this job. You need to impress this person and shmooze a bit. Work the magic. Show your want and commitment. And MAYBE you get the job.

Again. I believe lots what she says. But a persons life should not be ruined after one blog post with allegations. Facts and truth needs to be searched out before truly nailing People on the cross.
 
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mtkb

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so there are a couple of general points I'd make in response to that:

1) agreed 100% on the innocent until proven guilty. agreed further that there's not a lot of meat on the bones to Ciara's blog, save and except the linked emails that, ostensibly, show a pattern over years of her and other players raising issues with the powers that be that were ignored.

2) I don't care how good a coach he is. You can't bully, intimidate, threaten, or harass, even non-sexually, your players. To be clear, I'm not saying BB did any of those things - I have no idea (anecdotally my cousin backs up Ciara 100% on it, and goes somewhat further, but I digress).

But I fundamentally disagree with the "if you don't like it, tough" part of your comment. There's one path. Players are force-fed it. Leaving aside the general propriety of that, requiring players to put up with the allegations Ciara has made if they want to stay on said path? Bullshit. Absolute bullshit, and IF that's what happened, I wouldn't let the coach anywhere near the program if he had five World Cups to his name.

I rather suspect the Whitecaps, to the extent they were made aware of any of this, simply didn't care enough about the womens' game to do anything about it, for a time anyway. That's not the environment on the boys side, of that I'm quite certain. Doesn't make it right, but I think the overall fix is to have female coaches or club reps present at all training sessions, which is what most teams in the BCSPL are doing or moving to anyway, I believe...
 
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