'I knew a predator was on the field with kids' - Whistleblower turned soccer CEO Ciara McCormack

'I knew a predator was on the field with kids' – Ireland’s first female football CEO on building a safe environment for players.
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

11.36 14 Mar 2024

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'I knew a predator was on the...

'I knew a predator was on the field with kids' - Whistleblower turned soccer CEO Ciara McCormack

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

11.36 14 Mar 2024

Share this article

Ireland’s first-ever female football club owner and CEO Ciara McCormack  has said she wants young players today to enjoy safer environments than she did.

The former Ireland international blew the whistle on systemic abuse in Canadian soccer with her viral 2019 blog 'A Horrific Canadian Soccer Story – The Story Nobody wants to Listen to, but Everyone Needs to Hear'.

The blog outlined how former Soccer Canada coach, Bob Birarda was still coaching young girls despite having previously being fired for sexual misconduct against teenage players.


Four years later, Ms McCormack was telling her story to a Canadian parliamentary committee hearing on safe sport – and Birarda was convicted of violating the “sexual integrity” of four teenage soccer players.

Not long after that, Ms McCormack joined with Vancouver-based investment group, Tricor Pacific Capital to purchase Limerick’s Treaty United, taking over the club as co-owner and CEO last October.

Treaty United CEO Ciara McCormack Treaty United CEO Ciara McCormack. Image: Supplied

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, she said she spent years trying tell football organisations, the media and the police about Bob Birarda before eventually deciding to write her blog.

She said Birarda was the Under 20 national team coach for Canada and assister manager of the national team when she was coming up as a player.

He got fired for sexual misconduct against teenage players right before the Under 20 World Cup and the players were told that he would never coach again.

Ms McCormack said he was back on the field coaching within three months.

“He carried on for another decade while three or four of us tried to report, you know, just the fact he was on the field to soccer organisations and the media and police.

“We reported over 30 times and no one did anything.

“So I basically then, in 2019, just couldn't move on knowing this guy was on the field still.

“So I published a blog that just basically told the whole story and yeah, the blog went viral and to make a very long story short, victims came forward and in 2022 he was convicted of sex crimes against four former teenage players – including a player in 2008 that was the reason he got fired back then.”

"I couldn't move on"

While Ms McCormack was never one of Birarda’s victims, she said she could not sit back while young players were in danger.

“I knew a predator was on the field with kids,” she said.

“As a player back in Canada, I was kind of the one that, you know, players always came to me with their issues.

“I think, to be honest, from a playing perspective, I was lucky enough to have an Irish passport and knew that I would be blackballed in Canada but from a playing perspective, I ended up having the opportunity to play for Ireland.

“So I mean, I just, I couldn't move on.

“I don't know what it was about me, but yeah, I just knew how wrong it was and I just couldn't move forward knowing other people were in danger.”

League of Ireland

Ms McCormack said she jumped at the chance to take over at Treaty United because the League of Ireland is on the verge of a “massive upward trajectory”.

“I joke that I'm Limerick’s number one PR person,” she said.

“I absolutely love this city. I came in here last year as a player actually, and I mean, I have an extensive background in sort of the soccer business world and I just really saw an opportunity here.

“I think just coming from North America, I recognise the factors that make for a successful sporting environment and I sort of saw it all here.

“So far, I'm absolutely loving my experience and yeah, I'm really, really excited.

“I really do truly believe that the League of Ireland's at the bottom of a massive upward trajectory and I think honestly Limerick as well as a city and I'm just really, really excited for the future here for sure.”

Ms McCormack played for Ireland eight times between 208 and 2010.

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