North Carolina Courage sack head coach Riley amid sexual harassment allegations

Paul Riley North Carolina Courage 2019Getty

The North Carolina Courage have fired head coach Paul Riley amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Riley inherited the managerial reigns at WakeMed Soccer Park back in 2017, having previously built up 11 years of experience coaching women's soccer in the United States.

However, a number of the 58-year-old's former players have now come forward to accuse him of sexual coercion, and the NC Courage have responded by terminating his contract with immediate effect.

The allegations against Riley

Sinead Farrelly and Meleana Shim have both claimed that Riley acted inappropriately towards them in a report released by The Athletic on Thursday.

Farrelly played under the Englishman with the Philadelphia Independence and the New York Fury before also working with him at The Portland Thorns in 2014-15 - when Shim was also with the club.

The pair have alleged that Riley lured them into sexual encounters by utilizing his role as head coach as he created a "social culture" away from the pitch that included regular team nights out.

During her time under Riley, Farrelly said she "felt under his control", while Shim says her time under the coach made her feel from "the beginning like I owed him".

The two say that Riley made them kiss each other in exchange for the team not having to do a conditioning exercise, while Farrelly says she was coerced multiple times into having sex with Riley.

Riley, meanwhile, told the Athletic that the allegations are "completely untrue" while adding: "I have never had sex with, or made sexual advances towards these players." He continued that he socialized with players and occasionally picked up bar tabs during team outings, "but I do not take them out drinking."

What's been said?

The NC Courage have released a statement confirming Riley's departure, with his assistant Sean Nahas stepping in as his replacement on an interim basis.

"In light of today's reports, the North Carolina Courage have terminated head coach Paul Riley, effective immediately, following very serious allegations of misconduct," the statement reads.

"The Courage support the players that have come forward and we commend them for bravely sharing their stories. 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 prioritise efforts to maintain the highest standards of professional conduct throughout our organisation. 

"Sean Nahas has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season, effective today at training."

Riley's coaching license revoked

Further reaction

The National Women's Soccer League Commissioner Lisa Baird has also released a statement revealing that the allegations against Riley have been reported to the US Center for SafeSport.

"I was shocked and disgusted to read the new allegations reported in the Athletic this morning," said Baird. "The league, in concert with the North Carolina Courage, has reacted swiftly in response to these new allegations, and former head coach Paul Riley has been terminated.

"Concurrently, we are reporting these new allegations to the US Center for SafeSport for investigation. A safe and secure work environment is a top priority for the league and its collective ownership."

The Portland Thorns have reacted via their social media channels too, with an excerpt from their Twitter post reading: "We want to thank Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly for bravely speaking out and fully apologize to them for our role in the abuse they detailed."

United States Women's National team and OL Reign star Megan Rapinoe has voiced her outrage on the same platform, saying: "Mana & Sinead you are so strong & we are with you.

"To everyone in a position of power who let this happen, heard it & dismissed it, signed off on this monster moving to another team w/zero repercussions, F*CK YOU, you’re all monsters & can ALL hand your resignations in immediately."

And others, such have Alex Morgan, have since joined in.

Further reading