Chelsea’s new owners have commissioned an investigation into accusations of a toxic culture of bullying within their marketing team after it emerged the former head of the club’s television channel took his own life.
The club confirmed they had appointed “an external review team” following the revelation Richard Bignell had killed himself aged 44 in January and that a coroner’s report had found he had been “deeply troubled by anxiety, depression and despair following the loss of his job”.
The New York Times said Bignell, who worked at Chelsea for 18 years, had been abruptly sacked in September a day after returning from more than a year of medical leave.
It said Chelsea’s previous leadership had hired an outside firm to conduct a cultural review of their marketing department in March but that it was to be jointly overseen by the executive accused of being to blame for the worst of its problems.
It said it had spoken to almost a dozen of Bignell’s current or former colleagues, a number of whom told it he had struggled to cope with the executive’s aggressive management style that sometimes left colleagues in tears.
Other staff were said to have been signed off on medical leave, with at least 10 members of the team having quit the club.
One former employee was said to have done so amid fears over his or her own mental health, and to have written to Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck to that effect.
Others were said to have expressed similar concerns to club executives or in exit interviews with human resources staff.
Chelsea said in a statement: “The club’s new board believes strongly in a workplace environment and corporate culture that empowers its employees and ensures they feel safe, included, valued and trusted. Initial steps have been taken by the new owners to instil an environment consistent with our values.
“Our heart goes out to Richard’s entire family. His passing has been deeply felt by his colleagues at the club and across the football community.
“The club has appointed an external review team to investigate the allegations that have been made under previous ownership. Upon learning about the circumstances, new ownership has proactively reached out to Richard’s family through their counsel.”
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