Footballer’s press release held not to be defamatory

Rufus v Elliott [2015] EWHC 807 (QB),24 March 2015

The Facts

A former professional football issued a press release outlining his reasons for resigning as a trustee from the ‘Kick It Out’ anti- racism campaign. A text message which was sent by the defendant to the claimant included a racist word, which the claimant subsequently made public. This then prompted the defendant’s resignation and the press release which followed. The defendant’s press release implied that the claimant had acted disloyally to the defendant by making the text public.

The claimant claimed the press release contained a defamatory statement against him.

The Decision

The judge ruled that the press release was not defamatory of the claimant on the basis that the press release did not bear the meaning complained of, nor did it mean that the claimant had acted disloyally.

Further, it was held that the press release was not defamatory as it did not lower him in the esteem or opinion of right thinking members of society. Right thinking members of society would not generally disapprove of the revelation of an unacceptable racist term by the defendant.

The fact that the claimant disclosed a private message sent to him was overridden by his duty to hold to account a public figure whose private behaviour contradicts his public stance.

Alternatively, even if the claimants conduct could be regarded as disloyal, that disloyalty would not have been a kind that could be considered culpable or blameworthy by society in general.