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Whitecaps management needs to be held accountable for misconduct claims: ex-player

Malloree Enoch has divided her life into two sections: before soccer and after soccer.

Enoch, an American soccer player, alleged she was solicited for sex by Hubert Busby Jr. during his time as head coach of the Whitecaps between 2010 and 2011.

Enoch said Busby promised to sign her as a player for the team, and alleged he then repeatedly made her room with him on various trips, and eventually attempted to pressure her for sex.

"I moved home and had to start my life over," she said Friday in an interview.

Enoch said 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.

Enoch said it culminated in a group of Whitecaps women's players bringing their concerns about Busby, and their overall treatment as players, to management.

"It almost felt like 10 years ago, it wasn't taken seriously," she said about how Whitecaps staff responded to her allegations.

Axel Schuster, the Whitecaps chief executive officer, said in a statement that the club wants to apologize to Enoch "for letting her down."

"We have since learned that the investigation did not reveal certain allegations that were disclosed this week. Our communication with players, staff and the soccer community as to the reasons for Busby’s departure was also inadequate. We should have done better, and for that we are deeply sorry," he said.

He added that any current members of the executive team who were involved in the matter have been placed on administrative leave.

The allegations have not been tested in court. Busby could not immediately be reached for comment, but denied the allegations when contacted earlier this month by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Busby's contract with the Whitecaps expired in October 2011 and was not renewed by the team.

Major League Soccer said in its own statement released Friday evening that it would be launching an investigation into how the Whitecaps handled the allegations against Busby.

The findings and recommendations will be released publicly, it added.

An email seen by The Canadian Press sent by Lenarduzzi to players in 2011 told players not to comment publicly on the matter.

"Just a friendly reminder that it is not appropriate to comment publicly on this matter — this includes social media. Thank you in advance for your professionalism and co-operation," it reads.

The Whitecaps did not return a request for comment made by The Canadian Press on whether Busby's contract not being renewed was tied to the allegations made against him.

The Canadian-raised Busby was appointed head coach of Jamaica's women's team in January 2020 after previously serving as an assistant coach.

Busby previously represented Jamaica at the men's level from 2001 to 2003.

The Jamaican Football Federation said it is aware of the allegations and it will be meeting with Busby on Nov. 2.

Busby previously worked with the Seattle Sounders women's team as head coach and general manager and has also coached at the U.S. collegiate level.

The Sounders women's team, not affiliated with Seattle Sounders FC in Major League Soccer, has since folded.

That Busby has been able to continue coaching at various levels, including with teenagers, shows there needs to be a better system of checks and balances, said Enoch.

"It's not fair for parents to unknowingly put their child in that type of situation," she said. "These parents don't know any of this happened."

It's the second time a Whitecaps women's coach has faced allegations of abusive behaviour.

Ciara McCormack first brought the allegations against former Canadian women's under-20 coach Bob Birarda to public attention with a blog post in February 2019.

Canada Soccer said on Saturday that it has agreed to a "transparent, independent review of the investigation of allegations" against Birarda during the time when he was employed by the association.

Birarda was a former coach for the Whitecaps and has been charged with sexual offences involving four people. He's facing six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and one count of child luring.

The alleged offences occurred between January 1988 and March 25, 2008. The allegations have not yet been tested in court.

Enoch said the fact there has been two Whitecaps coaches accused of misconduct speaks to a greater dysfunction with how the club is run.

"There's no repercussions for letting these things slide. They do the bare minimum to check the box, but there's been no solution," she said.

Enoch said Whitecaps management needs to be held accountable for a lack of action in handling the misconduct allegations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 29, 2021.

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press

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