Sports Stars and publication in the media

Can the media report anything in relation to sporting stars?

  • Sporting stars are often the subject of huge amounts of media attention culminating in many reports in the media concerning their behaviour and private lives. When a sports star slips in relation to certain kinds of behaviour that would be condemned by the Great British public it is more often than not reported in the media.

  • The media will often rely on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and consequently Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which provides them with the right to freedom of expression.

  • The media feel that they have the right to freely express information concerning sports stars in order to condemn the behaviour and thereby contribute to debate in society and inform the wider public.

  • This is often cited in the media as giving them a free reign to print full details of sportsmen and women and celebrities lives so long as the other aspects of media law surrounding journalism are adhered to.

Do sports stars have an avenue to stop these stories being printed?

  • Sports stars and celebrities will often rely on Article 8 of the ECHR and the Human Rights Act which provides them with a right to respect for private and family life.

  • This right is one which has been forcefully advanced by a host of celebrity figures in recent years who have sought to deter media intrusion from exposing the details of their private lives to the general public.

  • In most cases this right is sought by a claim for breach of confidence.

  • A balancing act must therefore be achieved between the rights guaranteed by Articles 10 and 8.

Super-injunctions

  • In relation to their private lives being exposed sports stars will often apply to the court for a super-injunction.

  • A super-injunction will be granted in order to stop any specific details being printed or reported in the media. Sports stars are often able to be granted a super-injunction due to the vast amounts of money which they earn and losses which could be experienced in relation to damage to their reputation.

Case Law

  • In a recent case involving a sports star applying for a second super-injunction to prevent details of his private life being disclosed the renewal of the super-injunction was refused as the interests of the sports star were simply to protect his commercial interests as if the details of his private life were to be reported he would run the risk of losing various lucrative sponsorship agreements.

  • Accordingly it was also unlikely that a breach of confidence could have been occurred as the details of the private life were not provided to the press in confidence by the player.

  • As a result the case turned on the balancing act between Articles 8 and 10.

Legitimate Public Interest

  • The issue in this case was whether the public had a legitimate interest in a development which happened during the private life of an athlete.

  • In this case it was held that the disclosure of the information was legitimate and the public were entitled to learn of the details meaning that both the players’ commercial and professional reputation could be affected.

The Public Image

  • In this case it was held that as the player had presented himself in a specific way to the media as he was highly regarded as a role model for children and as an ambassador for English sport due to the lofty position held in the England national football team. Many felt that the player had embraced this image and often tried to present himself in this way.

  • It was held in this case that those sports stars that deliberately present themselves with a falsely clean image have no defence when the truth is exposed by the media in line with Article 10.

  • It was felt that sports stars that seek and welcome publicity of every kind which bears on their private lives so long as it shows them in a favourable light are in no position to complain of an invasion of their privacy by publicity which shows them in an unfavourable light.

  • There are many sports starts which have had details of their private lives reported in the media in this manner and who have no legal means of stopping the damage to both their commercial and professional reputation.