A former coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps women’s soccer team has been charged with multiple sexual offences, the BC Prosecution Service confirmed Thursday.
Charges against Robert Steven Birarda include six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault, and one count of child luring.
The incidents were alleged to have spanned from 1988 to 2008 at or near North Vancouver, Burnaby and West Vancouver.
Birarda has also served as the coach of Canada’s U-20 women’s national team.
In a statement, Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said the club’s priority was safeguarding the interests of people who had come forward in the investigation.
“Today’s developments have reinforced the harm that he brought to the women in our organization during that time,” Schuster said.
“We should have been better and for that we are sorry.”
Schuster said the club remained committed to the Safe Sport process initiated last year, and would do “everything possible so this never happens again.”
The club is not involved in the case, beyond cooperating with investigators, he added.
He appeared in court Wednesday and was scheduled to return in January.
Last year, Whitecaps owners expressed “sincere regret and empathy” for harm experienced by female players who have alleged abuse at the hands of a former coach.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
More to come…
— With files from Sean Boynton and The Canadian Press