NWSL bans four coaches for life and levies heavy fines following misconduct investigation

Paul Riley North Carolina Courage 2019
Paul Riley, Christy Holly, Rory Dames and Richie Burke have all been permanently banned from the league

The NWSL has announced a series of punishments in response to the Joint Investigative Report into misconduct throughout the league, with four coaches receiving permanent bans in addition to massive fines for several clubs.

Paul Riley, Christy Holly, Rory Dames and Richie Burke have all been permanently banned from the league after being named in the report, as well as the Yates Report released in October.

Former Utah Royals coach Craig Harrington and ex-Gotham FC general manager Alyse Lahue have been suspended until 2025, with their returns to the league conditional upon them acknowledging their responsibility for inappropriate conduct and demonstration of "sincere commitment to correcting behavior".

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Farid Benstiti, Amanda Cromwell, James Clarkson, Vera Pauw, Sam Greene and Aline Reis have not received suspensions, but will have to meet conditions to return to the league.

 “The league will continue to prioritize implementing and enhancing the policies, programs and systems that put the health and safety of our players first," said NWSL commissioner Jessica berman. "Those actions are fundamental to the future of our league, especially as we build a league that strengthens our players’ ability to succeed and prosper on and off the pitch. As part of our commitment to accountability and deterrence, the league has determined that further corrective action with respect to certain organizations and individuals identified in the Joint Investigative Report is appropriate and necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Chicago Red Stars and Portland Thorns, who were accused of protecting Dames and Riley, have been issued major fines.

The Red Stars have been hit with a $1.5 million sanction while the Thorns have been punished with a $1 million fine.

The owners of the Red Stars and Thorns, Arnim Whisler in Chicago and Merritt Paulson in Portland, have both announced their intentions to sell the clubs.

Racing Louisville, Holly's former club, has been fined $200,000. The club will also be required to now have a separate sporting staff from Louisville City FC, their sibling club in the USL.

The North Carolina Courage, who also employed Riley, was fined $100,000 and will also be required to create a separate staff from the USL's North Carolina SC.

Finally, OL Reign and Gotham FC were fined $50,000.

The Washington Spirit, Burke's former club, were not fined due to a change in ownership, while the Kansas City Current also escaped punishment despite allegations against former head coach Huw Williams. The NWSL said "there is no finding that the club retaliated against players".

“The league and its clubs have taken meaningful steps to begin this structural reform, and understand and accept the continual commitment to enhancing league standards that are necessary to build a safe and positive environment for our players, staff, fans and partners," Berman said.

"The Board of Governors hired me with the very specific mandate to effectuate this transformation. These changes will require leadership, accountability, funding and a willingness to embrace this new way of conducting business. Our league and clubs are committed to making these changes and will do so with continued input from the NWSL Players Association to make the NWSL a league that sets the standard for the future of sports. I look forward to sharing more about our progress on our efforts ahead of our 2023 season.”