Major League Soccer

MLS hires law firm to investigate Vancouver Whitecaps

Lizzy Becherano
MLS investigates on Vancouver Whitecaps handling of abuse allegations
MLS investigates on Vancouver Whitecaps handling of abuse allegations / Ned Dishman/GettyImages

Major League Soccer have hired Rubin Thomlinson LLP to conduct an independent review of the Vancouver Whitecaps' handling of misconduct and harassment allegations brought by members of the organization's women's team against two former coaches.

Hubert Busby Jr, and Bob Birarda are the coaches accused of wrongdoing, and Janice Rubin and Melody Jahanzadeh will be leading the review.

"The investigation will consider the club's internal processes and overall culture at the time of the allegations, including what steps it took in response to the allegations," Major League Soccer said on Thursday in a statement.

"The review will also consider the club's current policies and procedures and provide any recommendations on preventative measures to ensure that all players and staff within the Whitecaps organization work in a safe environment, free of all forms of harassment and fear of retaliation."

Malloree Enoch shed a light on the detailed allegations of inappropriate behavior by Busby between 2010 and 2011 in a recent interview with British newspaper the Guardian. The U.S. player recalled Busby’s promises to sign her before making Enoch share a room with him on team trips and eventually attempting to pressure her for sex.

The player initially shared her concerns with Dan Lenarduzzi, the team's soccer development director, after signing in 2011 but no actions were taken by him or the club. 

Enoch said it culminated in a group of players voicing their concerns about Busby and their overall treatment as players to management.

Busby left Vancouver after his contract expired in October 2011, but went on to be appointed as head coach of Jamaica’s women’s team in January 2020.

In 2019, former player Ciara McCormack detailed alleged harassment by Birarda, inspiring others to come forward with similar accusations.

Birada was let go by the Whitecaps in 2008 following the results of an internal investigation, and now faces charges including six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring, involving allegations spanning 20 years from 1988 to 2008.

Chief executive officer of the Whitecaps Axel Schuster said executives affiliated with the incident have been placed on administrative leave as Major League Soccer conducts the independent investigation. He also apologized to Enoch for how the team treated her initial allegations.