A former women’s coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canadian national youth teams has pleaded guilty to four sexual offences involving four different people.
Bob Birarda entered guilty pleas to three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual exploitation for sexual touching in B.C. Provincial Court on Tuesday morning. He was not present in the North Vancouver courtroom, instead appearing with his lawyers via a video link.
Asked by the judge how he pleaded to each of the four charges, Birarda spoke loudly and clearly, saying “I plead guilty, your honour.”
A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Birarda was initially charged in December, 2020, with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring for alleged offences that took place in North Vancouver, Burnaby and West Vancouver between January, 1988, and March 25, 2008.
The charges were updated last week to include six counts of sexual exploitation for sexual touching, three counts of sexual assault and one count of making sexually explicit material available to a child.
More than a dozen women who played for the Whitecaps and were part of Canada’s under-20 talent pool around 2008 have come forward to allege Birarda, a former coach for both squads, acted inappropriately with members of the team.
The allegations include rubbing a player’s thigh, sending players sexual text messages, making lewd comments and bullying young women who ignored or spoke out against his behaviour.
Birarda was dismissed by both the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in October, 2008.
Canada Soccer announced in October that it had agreed to an independent review of its investigation into allegations against Birarda during the time he was employed by the association.
In November, Major League Soccer announced it had hired lawyers Janice Rubin and Melody Jahanzadeh of Rubin Thomlinson LLP to conduct an independent review of how the Whitecaps dealt with misconduct allegations against both Birarda and Hubert Busby Jr., a former coach accused of pressuring a former player for sex in 2011. The allegation has not been tested in court.
The Whitecaps and Canada Soccer did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.