Awaiting Football’s First Libel Case

Last week he wasn’t trying, this week he’s a cheat. As Liverpool’s season gets off to slow start, Fernando Torres seems to be attracting all the negatives.

It is a classic media strategy: talk only in terms of crisis, personalise the problem. It helps create the headline, focuses the issue, and gives columnists something on which to hang an argument.

In most other lines of work, having the CEO of one of your rivals claim you were dishonest, and that you seek to advance your career by violating established business rules, might be seen as defamation. Suggesting you are not trying 100% might be harder to prove, but it is a slight that sportsmen have to live with. Politicians, heads of business and newspaper editors are accused of many things, but never lack of effort.

English libel law states an individual has a case if published statements could cause loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of them.

Maybe footballers are work-shy cheats: their salaries keep going up and the fans continue to cheer, so say what you like about them. That might not always be the case; it will interesting to see football’s first libel case.

*Wrote this piece before hearing of Andrew Strauss’ comments. Cricketers are different.

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