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Former Soccer Canada women's coach pleads guilty to four sexual offences

Bob Birarda, 54, has pleaded guilty to sexual offences involving four people between 1988 and 2008
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Former Whitecaps and Canada Soccer coach Bob Birarda, 54, pleaded guilty to four charges, including three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching while in a position of authority, in North Vancouver provincial court on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. | North Shore News files

A former coach for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Canada Soccer’s women’s teams has pleaded guilty in court to sexual offences involving four people. 

Bob Steven Birarda, 54, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning (Feb. 8) to four charges, including three counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual touching while in a position of authority. The charges involve four different victims and span a period of almost 20 years, between January 1998 and 2008.

Birarda made his guilty pleas by video in North Vancouver provincial court.

After each of the charges was read out in court, the judge asked Birarda how he pleaded. “I plead guilty, your honour,” he said in response.

Birarda was originally charged with nine sexual offences, including six counts of sexual exploitation, two counts of sexual assault and luring of a young person, against the same four people. An additional count of sexual assault was later added.

Among the charges Birarda pleaded guilty to on Tuesday are a charge of sexual exploitation between December 1988 and February 1990 in North Vancouver, a charge of sexual assault between January and August 1990 in Burnaby, a charge of sexual assault between January and July 1995 in North Vancouver, and a charge of sexual assault between June 2006 and March 2008 in West Vancouver and Burnaby.

Previously, a number of women who played for the Whitecaps and were also part of Canada’s under-20 talent pool around 2008 had come forward to allege Birarda, a former coach for both teams, acted inappropriately with members of the team.

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

Birarda will be sentenced at a later date, after pre-sentence and psychiatric reports are completed.

Birarda, who grew up in North Vancouver and lives in Delta, remains free on bail conditions including that he not have any contact with any of the alleged victims or go to any place where they are likely to be. He must also stay away from public parks, community centres, theatres, pools, schools or soccer fields where people under 18 are likely to be and must not have contact or be in the presence of anyone under 18 except with prior written permission of a bail supervisor.

Birarda must also not engage in coaching, volunteer work or employment that could bring him in contact with people under 18.

Identities of the victims are protected under a court-ordered publication ban.