The Times reports today that Liverpool winger Harry Kewell is going to the high court tomorrow to claim damages for libel. The Australian player is making the allegations against former Everton and Tottenham striker Gary Lineker, and the Telegraph Group. The action centres around an article written by Lineker in The Sunday Telegraph in July 2003.
The case is expect to last seven days, and will no doubt involve a lot of bad publicity before it is resolved, as each side attempts to discredit the other.
The article had been headlined: “Kewell move made me feel ashamed of the game”. The Times says Lineker criticised Kewell’s move to the Reds from Elland Road, questioning how Kewell’s agent Bernie Mandic seemed to be making millions out of football when it was struggling financially. Lineker is being called as the first defendant, with Jon Ryan, the newspaper’s Sports Editor, and the Telegraph Group named as second and third defendants.
Kewell’s allegations are that Lineker defamed him in the article. He is claiming damages for libel, including aggravated damages. The Times says that Kewell, "contends that the item discredited him because it suggested that he had participated willingly in a dishonourable and financially dubious transfer from Leeds to Liverpool. He also alleges that the article portrays him as naive and stupid for allowing his agent to manipulate him." It goes on to to say that Kewell also claims that, "the piece showed him as a cunning and disloyal player who had circumvented the transfer negotiation rules."
The defence from The Telegraph Group is that the article did not defame Kewell and was more critical of Mandic. The Times says, "It is understood that the Telegraph Group will argue that Lineker’s column is subject to a defence of fair comment. In other words, Lineker was expressing a personal opinion on the state of the transfer market in professional football."
Lineker wrote in the article that clubs should deal directly with each other and take agents out of the picture in transfer dealings. Kewell says that Mandic’s £2 million fee was reasonable – this was also in payment for work done over the previous three years.
The Times goes on, "The Telegraph Group denies that the article was defamatory in the way that Kewell has alleged. Kewell is also claiming an injunction restraining the defendants from repeating the allegedly defamatory views. Lineker and the Telegraph Group said that they had no comment to make before the case. Mandic said that neither he nor his client would be doing any interviews before the start of the new season."
The hearing is set for tomorrow.