The B.C. and Canada soccer associations have been facing a scandal for the past three months that has only just started to capture the public’s eye.
In late February Ciara McCormack, a former professional soccer player who was capped eight times internationally by the Republic of Ireland (but born and raised in Canada), published a blog post about her experience with the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s team when she was on the team from 2005-06 and again in 2011.
McCormack decided to publish the post after the CBC shared their investigation highlighting sexual predation on young athletes throughout Canada.
The Whitecaps women’s team, which hasn’t played a game since 2011, was the pathway for women to get on the national squad. Several of the players in the current national set-up are products of the domestic team. According to McCormack, it gave the coaches a wealth of unhealthy power over the players.
She included examples of the power wielded against her teammates, usually teenagers and fringe players looking to break into the national set-up.
Most of her post detailed the actions of “Coach Billy,” who was part of the BC Team Program before becoming the head coach of the Canadian U20 team and the Whitecaps. He was also an assistant coach in the full Canadian team.
Coach Billy, she alleged, had an inappropriate relationship with a 15-year-old player when he was coaching the provincial team, before he advanced to the higher positions. McCormack also said she witnessed several forms of bullying, the Whitecaps setting up improper accommodation, and no or very little compensation for team promotion events.
If players stood up they would be threatened or blacklisted.
Several more cases were outlined by her post, including how the Whitecaps president, the coach and board members handled the situation after it was brought to their attention.
McCormack left to play for Ottawa and then a team in Norway, trying to distance herself from Canadian soccer as much as possible, but continued to hear stories about Coach Billy and his conduct with the U20 women’s team. For example, a former teammate and friend told her Coach Billy had been seen with a 17-year-old girl in a car at a parking garage at 6 a.m.
His behaviour led to some of the players leaving the program, reporting incidents to BC Soccer.
Fast forward to this March when a coach with youth team Coastal Pacific FC was suspended for inappropriate conduct. This coach had a series of allegations made against him in the past. The club denied having any prior information, however, this was found to be untrue when Jack Reddy, a (different) former coach and staff member made his own statement saying the board knew about the allegations but chalked them up to “hearsay.”
It was Coach Billy, who had his contract with Soccer Canada terminated in 2008 after allegations were brought forward and then swept under a rug.
A new blog post, published on April 1, detailed further abuse within the BC Soccer Association and the Vancouver Whitecaps Women’s set-up. Due to the handling of the whole situation by all associations, supporter groups of the men’s team organized demonstrations during their April 17 game against the Los Angeles Football Club.
I hope they continue to do so until the Whitecaps organization properly addresses this.