Whitecaps CEO speaks on latest accusations of sexual misconduct involving former coach
Vancouver Whitecaps CEO Axel Schuster spoke to CTV News Monday regarding an explosive article in The Guardian detailing yet more allegations of sexual misconduct against a former member of the club’s coaching staff.
“I’ve got the backing up to do whatever I think is right,” Schuster said, explaining that the team owners trust him to take appropriate action. “And I also have the allowance, or backing up, to take any decision that I think is right at the end of the process.”
Malloree Enoch told the British newspaper about her experience trying to get an administrative job with the team before joining the women’s squad as a player in 2010 and 2011.
Enoch accuses then-coach of the Whitecaps women’s team, Hubert Busby Jr., of inappropriate conduct, saying she was forced to share hotel rooms with him under unusual circumstances on a number of occasions, including once in Los Angeles in November of 2010.
“He picked me up (at the airport) and brought me to the hotel and there was also supposed to be another coach, but no one else showed up,” Enoch told the paper. “He took me in the elevator up to my room and he was following me like he was going to show me the room. When we opened the door, all his stuff was in there."
The article goes on to detail allegations of unwanted sexual advances.
“To have to pull those things up years and years later shows incredible strength and I think is just a testament to the kind of person that she is,” said Enoch’s former teammate Ciara McCormack, who published a blog post in February 2019 with allegations of bullying and harassment against another former Whitecaps women’s coach in the years before Busby took over the job.
That coach, Robert Steven Birarda, was charged in 2020 with six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring for offences alleged to have occurred over 20 years.
None of the charges have been tested in court.
McCormack said coaches hold a lot of power and influence over young competitive athletes.
“The coach positions himself as a gatekeeper, and ... the athlete has to go through that person,” she said. “Or they have an in with another coach that’s going to make a decision to help propel that athlete forward.”
Enoch told The Guardian she complained to Whitecaps management at the time of the alleged incidents involving Busby.
He was not brought back to coach the following season, but has gone on to coach elsewhere, and is currently in charge of Jamaica’s national women’s team.
On Friday, the Whitecaps announced current members of the executive team who were involved in the matter have been placed on leave, but declined to say how many or name them because of an independent third-party investigation ordered by Major League Soccer.
"There’s an investigation going on. Not together with us. Not for us. It is an investigation against us,” Schuster said. “If we want to build trust and we want to do that in a serious and meaningful way, we have to follow the rules.”
Schuster also said the team has updated a number of policies in the years since Busby left the club – adding he has reached out to every player, staff member and, where appropriate, parent associated with the team to assure them they can feel safe coming forward if they feel something inappropriate has happened.
The team and MLS have promised to make the findings of the investigation public.
CTV News has been unable to reach Busby, who told The Guardian he denied the accusations made against him.
Jamaican Football Federation brass said a meeting with the coach is planned for Tuesday.