Former Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada U-20 women's soccer coach Bob Birarda arrives at provincial court for a sentencing hearing in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. Birarda pleaded guilty in February to three counts of sexual assault and one count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Crown seeks 2-year sentence for former Whitecaps coach’s sex offences

Offences involving four different people took place between 1988 and 2008

A Crown prosecutor is seeking a sentence of nearly two years for a former women’s soccer coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps who pleaded guilty to sex charges.

Bob Birarda, who also coached Canadian national youth teams, pleaded guilty in February to three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching.

The offences, involving four different people, took place between 1988 and 2008.

Prosecutor Linda Ostry told a North Vancouver provincial court judge that the Crown is recommending a jail sentence of two years less a day, covering consecutive sentences for each of the offences, plus three years’ probation.

The Crown also asked for a DNA sample, a mandatory 10-year firearm ban and, if a jail term is ordered, a non-communication order for each of the victims.

Birarda was dismissed by both the Whitecaps and Canada Soccer in October 2008.

More than a dozen women who played for the Whitecaps and were part of Canada’s under-20 talent pool have come forward alleging Birarda, a former coach for both squads, acted inappropriately with members of the team.

Birarda was originally charged in December 2020 with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring.

The charges were updated in February.

The allegations included 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.

The claims prompted hundreds of fans to walk out of several Whitecaps games in the spring of 2019 over the club’s handing of the allegations.

The team’s co-owner Jeff Mallett issued an apology to the women involved in May 2019 and thanked them for coming forward.

Major League Soccer announced last November that it had hired lawyers Janice Rubin and Melody Jahanzadeh to conduct an independent review of how the Whitecaps dealt with misconduct allegations against Birarda.

—The Canadian Press

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