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Soccer Whitecaps owners apologize for handling of abuse allegations against former coach

The owners of the Vancouver Whitecaps are apologizing for how the club handled decade-old allegations of abuse and harassment by a former coach.

Jeff Mallett and Greg Kerfoot issued a letter on Wednesday saying they “express sincere regret and empathy for the harm that has clearly come to many women who participated in our program” around 2008.

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 Bob Birarda, a former coach for both squads, acted inappropriately with members of the team.

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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.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The Whitecaps and Canada Soccer previously issued separate statements saying that concerns about behaviour within their programs in 2008 were investigated and, after the investigation was complete, the organizations parted ways with the coach.

The Whitecaps have also said the club recently contacted police in Vancouver to see if further action is required.

Fans of the team have protested the club’s perceived inaction over the allegations at two recent home games, leaving their seats mid-match.

The letter adds that the club will conduct a review of actions taken in 2008 “to determine what we can learn from them going forward. … The results of this effort will be shared publicly.”

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