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Statement from Vancouver Whitecaps FC CEO Axel Schuster

August 11, 2022 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Vancouver Whitecaps FC News Release


Major League Soccer released the findings of an independent investigation into the Vancouver Whitecaps FC handling of misconduct allegations brought forward by members of the women's team against former coach Bob Birarda in 2008 and former coach Hubert Busby, Jr. in 2011. MLS engaged Janice Rubin of Rubin Thomlinson LLP, one of Canada's foremost experts in workplace investigations, to conduct the investigation.

Statement from Vancouver Whitecaps FC CEO Axel Schuster

We commend the brave women who have spoken up and been fierce advocates for change both publicly and behind closed doors. We look forward to working hand in hand with our players and the soccer community to move the club forward and ensure respect and dignity are embedded into the DNA of our organization.

We have supported this investigation from the outset and are driven by our commitment to fostering a culture of zero tolerance for any form of harassment or bullying. While Rubin Thomlinson's report found that our organization took the allegations seriously and acted on the expert advice of an external investigator, it's clear that we could have done better, especially in how we supported and communicated with our players. To the women who were affected, our staff, players, and community, we are truly sorry.

There is no place in our organization for any form of sexual harassment or misconduct. Players are the heart and soul of our organization, and everyone should be able to pursue their passion for sport in an environment that is safe, respectful, and nurturing.

That's why we've committed ourselves to become leaders in Safe Sport and have continued to improve our policies and practices. Our director of sport safety & education has guided our Safe Sport commitment, which is anchored by five key pillars:

1. Policies & Procedures: Comprehensive policies and procedures that are clear, easy to understand and reviewed annually for effectiveness.

2. Prevention: Processes for coach and staff recruitment that have multiple screening tools including reference checks, vulnerable sector background checks, interviews, and orientation.

3. Training & Education: Mandatory Safe Sport training for all coaches and staff members working with minor players. Players receive ongoing program specific and age-appropriate Safe Sport education.

4. Reporting & Response: Comprehensive support resources including access to medical and psychosocial professionals, as well as clear, independent reporting mechanisms for complaints, and a fair and transparent resolution process.

5. Continuous Development: Proactive and ongoing evolution of our safe sport practices that is informed by our independent safe sport advisory board and feedback from players, parents of players, and staff members.

Rubin Thomlinson has made additional recommendations to further strengthen our policies, and we will implement all of them.


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