Clubs

Major League Soccer said Friday it will hire independent counsel to oversee an investigation into the Vancouver Whitecaps’ handling of misconduct allegations against former women’s coach Hubert Busby Jr.

“The investigation will include a review of the club’s internal processes and overall culture at the time as well as recommendations on preventative measures to ensure that all players and staff under the Whitecaps organization umbrella work in a safe environment, free of all forms of harassment and fear of retaliation,” MLS said in a statement. “The league and club will publicly release the findings and recommendations of the investigation.”

U.S. player Malloree Enoch detailed allegations of inappropriate behavior by Busby between 2010 and 2011 in an interview with the British newspaper, the Guardian. Enoch said Busby promised to sign her as a player, then repeatedly made her room with him on trips and eventually attempted to pressure her for sex.

Enoch said she shared her concerns with Dan Lenarduzzi, the team’s soccer development director, after signing in 2011, but no action was immediately taken. Enoch said it culminated in a group of players bringing their concerns about Busby and their overall treatment as players to management.

Busby’s contract with the Whitecaps expired in October 2011. He was appointed head coach of Jamaica’s women’s team in January 2020 after previously serving as an assistant coach. The Jamaican Football Federation said it was aware of the allegations and will meet with Busby on Tuesday.

The 52-year-old Busby previously worked with the Seattle Sounders women’s team as head coach and general manager and also has coached in college. The Sounders women’s team, not affiliated with the Seattle Sounders of MLS, has since folded.

Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster later released a statement in which he said that at the end of the 2011 season, the club secured the services of an independent ombudsperson to oversee an investigation into the matter, which ultimately led to the departure of Busby.

“We have since learned that the investigation did not reveal certain allegations that were disclosed this week,” Schuster said in his statement. “Our communication with players, staff and the soccer community as to the reasons for Busby’s departure was also inadequate. We should have done better, and for that we are deeply sorry.”

The allegations made against Busby are not the first against a former manager of the Whitecaps women’s team. In a blogpost written in 2019, former Whitecaps women’s player Ciara McCormack detailed incidents of abuse from 2008 made by then manager Bob Birarda, who also managed the Canadian women’s U20 national team. Birarda was charged in December of 2020 with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring. The allegations cover offences against four people.

When the allegations came to light, fans engaged in a series of protests, and the Whitecaps’ owners later issued an apology for the harm experienced by the players.

ESPN writer Jeff Carlisle contributed to this report.

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