Avram Grant, the former soccer coach of the Israel national team and the English club Chelsea, was accused of sexually harassing multiple women in a TV investigation broadcast Sunday.
In Channel 12’s investigative show “Exposure,” journalist Haim Etgar presented almost an hour of testimonies from several women who accused Grant of using his prominent position to try and coerce them into sexual relations.
The women told a similar story of an influential man who offered to advance the careers of young women in exchange for sex, pressuring them until they gave in.
One woman said that as recently as June 2020, Grant, now 67, invited her to his apartment in Tel Aviv with an offer to help her find work.
“He told me, ‘Make yourself comfortable, take off your clothes.’ I thought he was joking. I was sitting far away from him, on the edge of the couch. He asked me to come closer and tried to hug me, really grabbed me and did not let go,” said the woman, who was 22 at the time.
“I felt uncomfortable, he put his hand on my thigh, and I remember immediately moving his hand. After a few seconds of talking, he grabbed me by the neck, as if choking me, turned my head to him, and tried to kiss me by force,” she said, adding that she immediately said no.
The woman said he refused to let her leave and she was pressured to stay overnight to sleep at Grant’s apartment. “I didn’t have the courage to say no to him.” Grant then tried again and took her hand and placed it on his crotch, at which point she went to the bathroom and started crying, she said.
After eventually going to sleep in a separate bedroom, she awoke the next morning to find he was holding his exposed penis over her head, she said.
She confronted him over his actions several weeks later after he apparently mistakenly sent her a photo of another young woman.
She played voice notes from Grant in which he initially appeared to acknowledge what he was accused of but then tried to portray it as a consensual evening. Later, he said, “I don’t discuss my private affairs with anybody, what I did with you or what I do with someone else.”
Several women said that while working with Grant, he made sexual remarks to them, making it difficult for them to maintain professional relationships with him.
Another woman, identified as a prominent sports journalist in Israel, said that Grant had offered to assist her career when she was starting out. He then began making inappropriate comments to her and sent her harassing messages over several years. Several of the women recounted similar behavior from Grant.
Many of those testifying against Grant were well-known journalists, Etgar said, noting the reason for disguising the identities and some of the voices of those complaining. The women said they were afraid of the consequences for their careers if they came forward.
Several said they were denied access to Grant on a professional level after rebuffing his advances. They also said his behavior was an open secret in the industry.
Another woman, whom Etgar called a well-known local Israeli model, said she was at the beginning of launching an international career when Grant offered to help her. She flew to England to meet him.
During a meeting at a hotel, he suddenly took off his clothes and tried to convince her to sleep with him.
“I said no a million times, but he persisted and persisted… I felt that I had to, so he would let me go,” she said, adding that he did not use physical force.
The woman said she had a breakdown afterward and withdrew from modeling. “I did not want people to notice me anymore.”
Grant, a well-known soccer coach in Israel, shot to international prominence in 2007 when he was appointed manager of the Premier League soccer team Chelsea, by owner Russian-Jewish billionaire Roman Abramovich, leading them to the Champions League final.
He also coached West Ham and Portsmouth in the Premier League and has also had stints as coach of the Israel and Ghana national teams, in a career that has taken him to multiple countries.
The journalist, Etgar, posted a Facebook post ahead of the broadcast, saying that this was the “most disturbing and difficult investigation I have worked on in recent years.”
Etgar said that after “one brave woman” came forward, “the floodgates were breached.”
“The women’s testimonies all told the same story. A story about the powerful, well-connected coach who can easily launch a career, about how he knew how to use his position with young women who felt grateful to him for his help, but he took advantage of it and harmed them.”
Etgar said that during the research for the show he and Channel 12 had come under “massive pressure” from associates of Grant, with threats of legal action and attempts to besmirch the women who had come forward.
In response, Grant did not deny the accusations, saying that any harm he had caused was unintentional.
“In my life, both in a personal and professional capacity, I have always sought, above and beyond any successes or achievements, to prioritize staying a human being and to respect every woman or man, whoever they may be,” he said.
“I am a people person, a man of friendships. And over the years I have maintained relationships with women. In all these relationships I have tried very hard to treat them with respect and friendship and I never intended to behave unfairly or in any way harm any woman. Anyone who has felt uncomfortable or hurt by me, I regret it and apologize from the bottom of my heart.”