Blackpool football club chairman and owner awards damages for defamation resulting from online comments.

Facts

The claimants, Blackpool Football Club Limited, Karl Oyston (chairman of Blackpool FC) and Owen Oyston (owner of Blackpool FC) brought a defamation claim as a result of online posts made by the defendant, David Ragozzino, on a fan website. The posts made allegations of a sexual nature and of fraud and corruption; and had been read by hundreds if not thousands of people. The defendant is a dedicated supporter of Blackpool FC and he was aggrieved about the manner in which the club has been run. He had voiced his grievances previously in person at matches and also online.

Findings

The judge found that the defendant was entitled to post comments in relation to legitimate criticism of the claimants’ management of Blackpool FC in footballing or financial terms. The comments made by the defendant on this occasion, however, went well beyond criticism of this nature.

The judge described the allegations of sexual misconduct as “appalling and must be viewed as extremely serious” and ordered the defendant to pay aggravated damages to Karl and Owen Oyston of £20,000 each and £1,000 to Blackpool Football Club Limited.