Decision of the Complaints Committee – 03497-19 Club 1872 v dailyrecord.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Club 1872 complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailyrecord.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "Sex abuse victims 'left suicidal' after being tortured by sick football chants", published on 20 April.
2. The article reported that survivor groups had warned of a growing problem in Scottish football whereby chants and explicit banners about child abuse had featured at matches. It reported that "organisations say it has led to an increase in calls for help from survivors – and even claim it’s leaving some suicidal". The article went on to report that "Banners showing sex acts being performed have also appeared at other stadiums" and that Ibrox was one of these two stadiums. It then featured comments from a member of a childhood abuse organisation who said “Recent football matches have seen a lot of these disgusting chants. There have also been banners with pictures of priests abusing young boys."
3. The complainant, the second largest shareholder in Rangers football club, said the article was inaccurate. It said that banners depicting sex acts had not appeared at Ibrox.
4. The publication said that the banner in question appeared at a Glasgow derby match between Rangers and Celtic in December. The publication said that it had been informed prior to publication by the charity representative quoted in the article that the banner had appeared. It provided a statement from the representative, who said that he had been sent an image via social media of a banner at Ibrox depicting a priest engaging in sexual activity with a boy. The representative said that he was then contacted by a member of the charity's group who said he was at the game and had seen this banner first hand at the same match. The publication provided a post-publication statement from one of its reporters who attended the match in a non-professional capacity as a fan. The reporter said that a banner had been unfurled in another part of the stadium, which showed a caricature of a priest having sex with what appeared to be a minor.
5. The complainant emphasised that the reporter was not an independent witness and questioned the veracity of his statement. It highlighted the vagueness of his account; he was unsure of the stand the banner appeared in and he had changed his position. The complainant said that the charity representative had not seen the banner at the match first hand; he had been shown an image by someone online which he could not produce, and said that an unnamed third party had told him the banner appeared at the match; this was not sufficient to substantiate the claim that the banner appeared as fact. The complainant produced publicly available videos of the stand in question at various points prior to kick off, which showed no banner matching the description. It provided a statement from the club’s safety officer stating that no banner had been seen or reported. It noted that none of the 62 journalists and 28 photographers at the game in a professional capacity had mentioned or photographed the banner and as this was one of the most watched games in world football, it was not credible to suggest that the publication's reporter was the only person to have seen it.
6. The publication did not accept the complainant's position as a valid argument; just because they were not aware of the banner and could not find an image of it post-match did not mean it could not have possibly been unfurled. It said that the complainant had not produced footage from the entire ground, for the entire duration of the match and pivotally in the minutes leading up to kick-off, which was when the reporter said he had seen it in his personal witness testimony. The publication said that it stood by the testimony of its reporter and emphasised that the Committee could not make a ruling on whether something was or wasn’t seen at a particular moment in time.
7. Further, the publication directed the Committee to provision 8 of IPSO'S regulations, which states:
The Regulator may, but is not obliged to, consider complaints: (a) from any person who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors' Code; or (b) where an alleged breach of the Editors' Code is significant and there is substantial public interest in the Regulator considering the complaint, from a representative group affected by the alleged breach; or (c) from a third party seeking to correct a significant inaccuracy of published information. In the case of third-party complaints the position of the party most closely involved should be taken into account.
The publication said that as the complainant is a third party, under provision 8(c), the Committee could only consider a complaint on the basis that the complainant was “seeking to correct a significant inaccuracy”. Therefore, IPSO did not have jurisdiction to examine the care that was taken or whether the publication had failed to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact. It asked the Committee to consider whether the complaint should have been taken forward in the first instance.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
9. The Committee first considered the publication’s position that the complaint should not have been taken forward. The Committee considered the terms of Regulation 8 which provides that IPSO may consider a complaint from a third party which seeks to correct a significant inaccuracy of published information. The complaint under consideration was that the article had made a significantly inaccurate factual claim (namely, that the banners had appeared at the stadium) which required correction. In those circumstances, the Committee was satisfied that the Regulations provided the jurisdiction necessary for consideration of the complaint under each sub-clause of Clause 1.
10. The article had reported, as fact, that the banners described in the article had been seen at the stadium. The publication accepted that, at the time of publication, it had not relied upon the account of the journalist who had attended the match. The claim was based solely upon the account of the charity representative, who had not been in attendance at the stadium; he said that he had received, but not kept, a picture of the banner via social media and had been told that the banner had appeared by a member of the charity’s group. By presenting the charity representative’s account as fact, the publication had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1(i). This was significantly misleading, given the nature of the banners which were reported as having appeared at the stadium, and required correction. In breach of Clause 1 (ii), the publication had not offered a correction.
11. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial Action Required
12. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action was appropriate. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication. The nature, extent and placement of which is determined by IPSO.
13. In this case, the Committee considered that the newspaper had been entitled to report the account of the charity representative provided that it was clearly presented as such. The Committee considered that the appropriate remedy for the breach of Clause 1 was the publication of a standalone correction, and as a footnote to the article. The correction should make clear that the reported appearance of the banner at the stadium was a claim which had been made by an individual who had not witnessed the event first hand. The wording should state that the correction was being published following an upheld decision by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, and the full wording should be agreed with IPSO in advance.
Date received: 23/04/2019
Date concluded by IPSO: 20/12/2019Back to ruling listing