Chelsea FC Tragedy Reveals Need for Wider Ethos of Respect
Chelsea FC have announced that they are commissioning an external review, after a tragic suicide by a former senior member of the club and several reported allegations of bullying in senior management. There are allegations of a “toxic environment”.
But far less commented upon has been a critical aspect: the unwillingness of those in that environment to speak out because of what might happen in the club or even after they moved away from it.
FIFA Ethics & Regulations Watch is seeking to raise two points in respect to this series of events.
Firstly, that staff should feel far more comfortable with being able to speak out or even whistleblow, and there should be zero fear of retaliation from across the sport. The Chelsea case suggests there needs to be better due process where there are allegations of intimidation or bullying. We recognise that football is a high stakes, high pressure, and high rewards sport. In this instance, added pressures also existed because of Chelsea’s ownership shifting. But those factors can never be an excuse.
Secondly, there is a potential lesson here. Club focus on demonstrating solidarity with wider equality rights across society – “bending the knee” – should not detract from the basics of showing common decency and respect to their own staff in the workplace. It may be less showy as a policy in club PR terms, but it has a real impact and needs to be gripped as a priority.
Speaking on behalf of FIFA Ethics & Regulations Watch, spokesman Lee Rotherham said,
“An alarm bell has sounded. This is an area that needs critical consideration both by Parliament’s DCMS Committee and by fan-led review. FIFA Ethics & Regulations Watch will be formally contributing in due course.”
- Major newspaper reporting has painted a grim picture of alleged bullying by a senior staffer and major failure by the club to address it. The New York Times in particular carried a major piece highlighting specific allegations of high staff churn on health grounds and an unhappy workplace (link: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/29/sports/soccer/chelsea-workplace-suicide.html)
- Notably, the NYT piece observed that employees were reticent to speak out because of the damage they feared to their careers within the club or even more widely across football. The implications of this, if correct, are significant in terms of fixing similar problems elsewhere, in particular if there is a fear of not being able to work elsewhere after raising or escalating a complaint.
Notes to Editors
- FIFA Ethics & Regulations Watch campaigns for a clean sport, where “fair-play” and the core values are applied throughout the pyramid structure – from FIFA at the top to the grassroots.
- Our website can be found at https://ferw.eu/