Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has won a battle with the
publishers of "Sport Magazine" for libel.
Gerrard, who put pen to paper on Monday on a new four-year
contract with Liverpool, has accepted the undisclosed damages, relating to
false claims that he'd been in secret talks with Real Madrid.
Newspapers and certainly websites print speculation about players
all the time, and most fans are used to taking such stories with copious
amounts of salt. But Gerrard's dalliance with Chelsea in two consecutive
summers caused upset for so many Reds that he clearly doesn't want fake stories
to have the same impact. And so he brought proceedings in London's High Court
over what had been billed as a "world exclusive" when published in February.
Gerrard wasn't at the court, instead he is in Estonia on international
duty with England, but his solicitor, Gerard Tyrrell, told Mr Justice Eady about
the article. He said the story included images of a fax from the Park Lane
Marriott Hotel. The magazine claimed this was "confirmation of a hotel
reservation in London for the Liverpool captain", before going on to state
that, "Sport Magazine might not be the sharpest tool in the box, but even we
can join the dots on this one."
Sport Magazine then said in their story: "When we called the
Park Lane, they confirmed that a Mr Steven Gerrard was indeed booked in for an
overnight stay. Remember where you read it first and watch this space."
The court also heard that the editor's column said of the
fax that it, "purports to come from the Marriott Hotel, and confirms bookings
on Monday February 5 for Liverpool and England star Steven Gerrard and one
Ramon Calderon, who just happens to be president of Real Madrid."
Gerrard's brief said these allegations were completely
untrue and without any foundation whatsoever. Furthermore the magazine had not
contacted the player his agents before publication of the story, and this had
caused the player and his family "considerable embarrassment and distress".
As well as upsetting Liverpool fans (had they fallen for the
story) it also could have seen Gerrard in trouble with his club and the FA had
they felt there was cause for concern. As Chelsea and Ashley Cole found out not
too long ago, it is against FA rules for a club to speak directly to another
club's player without first getting permission. The solicitor said: "The true
position is that Steven Gerrard has not been involved in breach of FA rules in
secret talks with Real Madrid or indeed any other football club relating to a
possible move. He is more than happy at Liverpool to whom he is contracted."
The publishers, Sport Media & Strategy Ltd, accepted
that their allegations were false. They apologised to Gerrard and agreed to pay
him damages as well as his legal costs.
They also effectively added themselves to a list of sources
to be avoided when it comes to transfer "exclusives", the most notable being
the disgraced Koptalk website, but not forgetting many of the columnists in the
Sunday tabloids. In fact linking players
with a move away from Anfield just before a big game is quite common practice,
usually carried out by journalists who normally cover our opponents. Saying a
player has been attracting interest from another club is relatively harmless,
but stating (falsely) that a player has been in secret talks with that club is
quite damaging and it is time it was stamped on.
Well done to Gerrard for pursuing the claim.