Major League Soccer (MLS) announced Friday that it will oversee an independent investigation into the Vancouver Whitecaps’ handling of misconduct allegations by members of the women’s team against a former coach.
Any current member of the Whitecaps’ executive team who were involved in matters related to the allegations has been put on administrative leave, the club confirmed Friday.
The league’s move came a day after former player Maloree Enoch went public with accusations against former head coach Hubert Busby Jr., who she said tried to solicit her for sex while she was being recruited for the team in 2010 and 2011.
Global News was unable to reach Busby Jr., but the now-head coach of the Jamaica women’s national team has denied the allegation to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
In a statement, the MLS said it was hiring an independent counsel to oversee a probe of the allegations, including the Witecaps’ internal processes and culture at the time.
The MLS has committed to making the investigation’s findings public.
In a statement, Whitecaps FC CEO Axel Schuster said the club was “greatly disturbed” by the allegations.
“The courage it takes to come forward cannot be overstated. We respect Malloree’s bravery, appreciate her honesty, and support her entirely. We apologize to Malloree for letting her down,” Schuster said.
Schuster said Friday that the team had been made aware of the allegations against Busby at the end of the 2011 season, when it hired an independent ombudsperson to investigate, “which ultimately led to the departure of Busby.”
He went on to acknowledge the investigation “did not reveal certain allegations that were disclosed this week,” and that the team’s communication with players, staff and the community was “inadequate.”
“We should have done better, and for that we are deeply sorry.”
Enoch has alleged that Busby promised to sign her to the Whitecaps’ women’s team, then repeatedly made her room with him on various trips — eventually attempting to pressure her into sex on one of them.
She alleges she shared her concerns with Dan Lenarduzzi, the team’s soccer development director, after signing with the team in 2011, but no action was immediately taken.
A group of players later took their concerns to management, she said, and Busby Jr.’s contract was not renewed when it expired in Oct. 2011.
The investigation comes two years after explosive allegations about sexual misconduct and bullying emerged against another former women’s coach, Bob Birarda.
Birarda is currently facing multiple sex offence charges, including sexual exploitations, sexual assault and child luring. None of the allegations have been proven in court.