Chelsea’s sacking of commercial director Damian Willoughby has acted as a reminder of the sexual harassment and discrimination that women still face on a daily basis within football, according to the Women in Football organisation.
As exclusively reported by Telegraph Sport, Willoughby was sacked after less than a month in his job at Stamford Bridge after it emerged he had sent a string of ‘inappropriate messages’ to investment agent Catalina Kim before he joined Chelsea.
Women in Football, who offer free legal advice from Mishcon de Reya, plan to reach out to Kim to offer her support and advice, and have urged clubs to work closely with them to try to eradicate cases such as Willoughby’s.
A Women in Football statement to Telegraph Sport said: “The case of Damian Willoughby reminds us that women in the football industry still suffer sexual harassment and discrimination on a daily basis. Two-thirds of Women in Football members have witnessed sexism at work. The vast majority of cases never make the headlines. Only 12 per cent are even reported within the workplace.
“Women in Football provides practical support to our 6,000-plus members on dealing with discrimination, including free advice from our official legal partner Mishcon de Reya. Any WIF member who speaks out against sexism in their workplace does so with our backing.
“We applaud those football clubs that are working to eradicate all forms of inequality, be they high-profile scandals reported in the media, or everyday sexism in the workplace. We invite more clubs to work with us in becoming safer and fairer places for women to pursue their careers.”
Kim made her complaint to Chelsea’s president of business Tom Glick, who hired Willoughby. Kim said she had been sexually harassed before Willoughby’s employment by the club and alleges she felt threatened over the telephone while he was working for the club.
Kim provided Glick with a series of messages that were sent last year by Willougby in which he asked her if she was naked, brought up the subject of having sex, posted an alleged sexually explicit video and suggested he would arrange a meeting with Manchester City City chief executive Ferran Soriano if she was willing to be “naughty”.
Before becoming Glick’s first appointment at the start of September, Willoughby previously worked for Chelsea between 2007 and 2010, and has also worked for Rangers and the City Football Group, the stable of clubs that Manchester City is part of, as well as EA Sports.
Before confirming the sacking of Willoughby in a statement to Telegraph Sport on Tuesday night, Chelsea sent an internal memo to all staff, informing them of his dismissal and reminding them of the various ways that complaints or incidents can be reported.
It was also stressed in the memo that the new owners are committed to nurturing an inclusive culture with safety and wellbeing at the heart of it.
In a statement, Chelsea said: “Chelsea Football Club confirms that it has terminated commercial director Damian Willoughby’s employment with immediate effect.
“Evidence of inappropriate messages sent by Mr Willoughby, prior to his appointment at Chelsea FC earlier this month, has recently been provided to and investigated by the club. While they were sent prior to his employment at the club, such behaviour runs absolutely counter to the workplace environment and corporate culture being established by the club’s new ownership.
“The club’s owners are working tirelessly to set and achieve the highest standards both on and off the pitch, and are determined to establish and nurture a culture of transparency, accountability, inclusivity, diversity and opportunity. The club is committed to creating an environment which embodies these values.”