Youth soccer coach suspended amid allegations of inappropriate behaviour
The coach of a youth soccer program in Surrey, B.C. has been suspended after allegations of inappropriate behaviour were brought forward in an online blog post.
Coastal Football Club executive director Chris Murphy told CTV News the program wasn't aware of the allegations when the coach was appointed to his current position, and that board members acted swiftly after learning of the blog post on Monday.
"Immediately on seeing that we got together our board of directors and some staff to discuss appropriate actions and steps, and that's when we decided to take the actions that we did," Murphy said Tuesday night.
Coastal FC is still working to determine how serious the allegations are, but the program issued a statement on its website saying "the nature of them (is) of the deepest concern."
Murphy told CTV News he's not aware of anything criminal in nature, however, and that police are not currently involved.
The executive director said his understanding is that the allegations date back to the mid-2000s, before the coach joined Coastal FC. The club is still planning a meeting with parents from the two teams he coached.
"This is all new to us, but certainly it's a top priority for us to not only get to the bottom of this situation but also to review our own internal process and policies in respect to the appointment of coaches in our club," Murphy said.
The blog post, which was written by former soccer player Ciara McCormack, contains a string of allegations involving bullying and sexual harassment against a number of coaches involved in women's soccer.
It also highlights what McCormack alleges was a failure to appropriately respond after incidents were reported to officials, including at the Whitecaps and the Canadian Soccer Association.
McCormack details specific experiences and what happened after each was reported to officials, including at the Whitecaps and Canadian Soccer Association.
"They were told that there was potential sexual inappropriateness with underage players and the police were not called. That's what I feel like the Whitecaps have to answer for," McCormack told CTV News.
She also writes that when the coach and Whitecaps parted ways in 2008, players were led to believe he would not oversee a soccer team again. That was before he joined Coastal FC.
On Wednesday, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC said “the well-being of our staff and athletes is of paramount importance.”
In a statement, the club said there is currently an “independent Ombudsperson” available to staff and athletes on an anonymous basis.
Canada Soccer told CTV News it has an anonymous reporting system as well that includes a whistleblower hotline managed by a third party.
"Independent case managers are assigned to each complaint and an independent judicial body investigates where appropriate," the organization said in an email.
"In addition, Canada Soccer has entered into an agreement with Respect in Sport to include training for all coaches who complete Canada Soccer coach education and has established a condition in the Canada Soccer Club Licensing program that all organizations must adhere to the Canada Soccer Guide to Safety."
The B.C. Soccer Association released a statement earlier in the week urging anyone who experiences “bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct” in the sport to come forward and file a complaint.
“The safety of all members of the soccer community, and in particular youth participants, is of the utmost importance,” it said.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Allison Hurst and Breanna Karstens-Smith