North Carolina Courage have sacked coach Paul Riley after allegations of sexual misconduct towards female players were made public.
Courage, who play in the United States’ top women’s league – the NWSL – said in a statement that they commended players who had stepped forward to contribute to an article in The Athletic.
That piece cited a dozen of Riley’s former players, including two – Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim – who went on the record to detail the Liverpool-born coach’s pattern of behaviour.
Riley has spent his entire career in the USA and has been coaching in the women’s game since 2006 with his clubs including the Portland Thorns and Long Island/New York Fury.
“The Courage support the players who have come forward and we commend them for bravely sharing their stories,” read an official statement signed by “the players, staff and principal owner” of the club.
“The North Carolina Football Club is united together in our commitment to creating a safe, positive and respectful environment, not only within our club but across the league and our great sport.
“As previously stated, players and staff are encouraged to report any inappropriate behaviour in accordance with NWSL policy as we prioritize efforts to maintain the highest professional standards of conduct throughout our organisation.”
Riley was alleged to have coerced Farrelly and other players to have sex with him, forced players to join in on nights of excessive drinking, sent some of them a lurid picture, and manipulated them mentally and emotionally in other ways related to their playing time and status on the team.
He had earlier responded to an extensive list of questions from The Athletic in which he stated the majority of allegations made against him are “completely untrue” but did say he sometimes socialised with players.
The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association called for an investigation into Riley’s history and high-profile US Women’s National Team players including Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan called for action before his sacking was revealed, claiming previous allegations against Riley had not been investigated properly and that the league was failing to protect its own players.
NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said she was “shocked and disgusted” to read of the new allegations against Riley and confirmed they had been reported to the US Center for SafeSport for further investigation.
Amid the criticism that the league had failed to listen to victims, Baird also stated: “We are implementing a new anonymous reporting process, whereby players, teams and league staff may text concerns to the league, which will be promptly investigated.
“We ask our players and all associated with the league to raise their concerns to us, as we continue to make our league a safe, positive and respectful environment for our players, clubs, staff and fans.”