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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 53209
Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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Defamation As Chairman of a semi-professional football club,

Customer Question

DefamationAs Chairman of a semi-professional football club, I am well used to hearing negative comment about the way the Club is being managed, my leadership role, etc etc. It comes with the territory and I turn the other cheek most of the time.A past Chairman, and current Life Member of the Club, has upped the ante recently and has taken to putting comments in writing, attacking my character, management style, effectiveness, and popularity.Q. Where is the line between negative opinion and Defamation of Character?This is an extract from recent formal correspondence he sent to our Club Sec, copied to 2 of his friends who are not at all discreet when it comes to it:"...what I do know is that several members of the football committee were (in their words were 'forced or threatened' to follow the lead of the Chairman - they have told me so) intimidated into suporting this, which is so so sad. Those of us who have put decades into the the Club now find ourselves being pressured by a man who has exceded his own ability (Peters theory which JO fits into perfectly) resulting in him lashing out at the very people who could help and support him to succeed. The football Club Committee have - it seems supported a Chairman who is detested by the Clubs own supporters who certainly do not have any confidence in him and probably the Social Club members see him in a similar light as well because of his lack of 'people skills' brought about by his insecurity and the prompting of one or two individuals who I believe have another agenda which has surfaced from time to time in the recent past."Our Secretary has canvassed the views of all 11 current Committee Members referred to above - everyone single one refute his allegations about my negative management style, or being 'forced, threatened, or intimidated' at time whatsoever, or making any such comment to him.I am working hard at the moment to raise funds and generate support for an ambitious Club expansion project, necessitating board-level engagement across all sectors. I sit on the League Management Committee where I strive to build our club's own reputation within football.I am now seriously concerned about the damage that can be done by unsubstantiated allegations such as those above circulating far and wide across the community.Whats my own legal position here?JO
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Have you contacted this person at all to discuss the comments that he has made?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Not yet.From a Club perspective, our Sec and Vice Chair wanted to validate it internally first with the Cttee Members referred to. They will consider a Club response next.I personally want to know where I stand first before I take it up with the guy, hence the Q.
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

OK thank you for your response. Leave it with me for now and I will review the relevant information and laws and will get back to you as soon as I can. Please do not respond to this message as it will just push your question to the back of the queue and you may experience unnecessary delays. Thank you

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Many thanks for your patience. Whilst this may appear to be a potential case of defamation (this includes libel if it is in written form, or slander if it is in oral form), such claims are rather difficult to pursue. Many people are keen on suing for defamation without having full appreciation of the law or practicalities in doing so. I will try and clarify the position below.

First of all, certain conditions must be met for the statement to be classified as defamatory. These are:

1. There has to be a defamatory statement - it has to be an untrue statement and the assessment that is often used to establish this is whether the statement tends to lower the claimant in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally. So it can be a fine line between negative opinion and a clearly false statement which satisfied the above criteria
2. Its publication has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to the reputation of the claimant – this will vary based on what effect it will have but it really has to be something sufficiently serious
3. The statement has been published by the defendant to a third party
4. The claimant must prove that the words complained of were published about him - this should not be an issue if the claimant is named or clearly identified.

Whilst it may be easy to prove that defamation has taken place, the legal process of pursuing such a claim is often complex and prohibitively expensive. A claim must be made in the High Court and will likely require the help of professional defamation lawyers, so the costs will often be high right from the outset, usually in the thousands. There is also no legal aid available for such claims so the complainant must fund these personally.

You must also consider whether the publisher of the statement can potentially defend the claim. For example this can happen by proving the statement was true or an honest opinion which could have been made based on the available facts.

Instead of starting legal proceedings it would be best to contact the publisher of the comment, advise them that what they have done amounts to defamation and that you will consider pursuing the matter further if they do not retract their statement and issue an apology. This could prompt them to reconsider their position, which would avoid the need for court action. Of course, if they refuse to comply the option of suing still exists, but consider the above information before going down that route.

I trust this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars above - this is an important part of our process and recognises the time I have spent assisting you. If you still need me to clarify anything else, please reply on here and I will assist as best as I can. Thank you

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
His allegations are untrue and, as I said above, I have 11 members who support this position. So, on this basis, is it your view that he has indeed made defamatory statements?I understand the conditions you have set out and possible defenses. What I'm unclear about is whether his statements do indeed constitute Defamation of Character. If he was to take legal advice himself, would he be advised that I have a case, whether or not is it pursued through the courts, especially if presented with 11 statements that unequivocally defend my position?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Hi there, as mentioned it is a fine line so I cannot tell you with 100% certainty whether a court will decide these are actually defamatory statements or just an expression of opinion. To be honest you may find that one court with one judge on one day comes to a completely different opinion to another on a different day. There is no standard checklist you can follow that will give you that guaranteed answer and often it is open to interpretation and how a judge views this, meaning there is a level of subjectiveness in it too.

What is more likely to lean this in favour of defamation is whether they were trying to make these statements as statements of fact, rather than just expressing their opinion. In other words, if he said something like ‘I think he is poor at his job, etc’ it will be difficult to argue defamation, whereas something along the lines of ‘He has failed to gather the necessary funding because he has not done A, B or C’ when in fact the opposite can be shown, that is more likely to be defamatory. Does this clarify a bit more?

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Hello, I see you have read my response to your query. Could you please let me know if it has answered your original question? You can either reply on here with a quick ‘Yes, thanks’, or select 3, 4 or 5 stars on this page. I can still answer follow up questions if needed to clarify anything for you. Many thanks

Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Hello, not sure if you are having trouble seeing my posts? Do you need any further assistance or are you happy with the response to your query? I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Requested a Phone Call on 6 June, box is ticked as "Phone Call Requested' on screen...nothing seems to have happened since. Can you advise?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
will it be possible at all to have the requested phone call, or do you just withdraw that facility?
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 6 months ago.

Hi there, requesting a phone call just means your request is open to the panel of lawyers and if someone is available to do a call then they accept this and go ahead with it. Sadly it does not guarantee it. If you have not received one it means no one is available to discuss this particular situation over the phone with you