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Sporting KC Hire Controversial Sporting Director Gavin Wilkinson

Sporting Kansas City will hold a press conference today for a club announcement which is rumored to be the hiring of Gavin Wilkinson.



Credit: Thad Bell

Tom Bogert, Pablo Maurer and Paul Tenorio of The Athletic and Daniel Sperry of the Kansas City Star are reporting that Sporting Kansas City will hire former Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns General Manager and President, Gavin Wilkinson. Sporting KC have announced they’ll hold a press conference with Peter Vermes and co-owner Mike Illig at 2:30 Central Time for a “club announcement.” As of this time, they have not confirmed the Wilkinson hire.

Wilkinson served in his roles in Portland since the team joined Major League Soccer in 2011 and the Thorns since they joined the NWSL in 2013. He was fired in 2022 as a result of fallout from Sally Yates’s report into allegations of past abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer, as well as other allegations of misconduct in his time as GM and President.

A Questionable Past

The Yates report was an independent investigation into allegations of past abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer in the United States.

In the report, Wilkinson is accused of mishandling the dismissal of former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley, who is heavily implicated in the report for sexual misconduct and coercion of his players.

Wilkinson was also found to have then recommended Riley to be hired by the Western New York Flash (now the North Carolina Courage). He allegedly said Riley was “put in a bad position” by a player, according to one WNY Flash executive and that he’d hire him as head coach “in a heartbeat.” Riley was fired from the Courage in 2021 when the Yates report was released.

[Update 8:40 PM CST: At the press conference, Wilkinson denied the above quotes and later indicated, “the facts have not necessarily been reported.”]

Wilkinson was also accused of mishandling domestic violence allegations of now former player Andy Polo. The allegations came in 2021 and the team still triggered his contract option after the season. An MLS investigation conducted by Proskauer Rose LLP found it was mishandled out of “incompetence,” and not a desire to cover it up.

Gavin Wilkinson is also accused of several other inappropriate comments and actions towards players that he denies.

On the surface, the optics of the hire of Wilkinson by Sporting Kansas City look very bad.

Sporting Director Search

According to The Athletic, “Sporting KC aimed to add to the club’s front office this offseason.” In addition to interviewing and hiring Wilkinson, they reportedly considered former New York Red Bulls sporting director Dennis Hamlett and current Orlando City technical director Ricardo Moreira.

Previously, Peter Vermes held both the job of Head Coach and Sporting Director. With Wilkinson in that role, it’s one less title for Vermes, but Wilkinson will still report to Vermes.

Gavin Wilkinson built the Portland Timbers teams that won MLS Cup in 2015 after eliminating Sporting KC in the double-post game and were runners up in 2018 and 2021. He built the Portland Thorns teams who won the NWSL Championship in 2013 and 2017.

The KC Soccer Journal will have more from today’s press conference and on this story in the coming hours and days.

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