Ruling

Resolution Statement – 19629-23 Plymouth Argyle Football Club v The Herald (Plymouth)

    • Date complaint received

      17th August 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 19629-23 Plymouth Argyle Football Club v The Herald (Plymouth)


Summary of Complaint

1. Plymouth Argyle Football Club complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Plymouth Herald breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Rock legend has gig cut short before encore ends”, published on 26 June 2023.

2. The article – which appeared across pages 4 to 5 of the newspaper – reported on a concert hosted at the complainant’s stadium, Home Park. It reported that “the singer [Rod Stewart] ‘stormed off’ stage when his set was ‘cut short’ before he had finished his set”. It stated, “the audience was left shocked and disappointed when he finished his second to last song of the encore at around 10.30pm and the stage was turned to darkness. To add to fans’ fury, his last song was We Are Sailing.” The article quoted social media posts of people who had attended the concert: “Four of us attended the Rod Stewart concert at Home Park. It was a fabulous night but what an abrupt end. A guy dressed in black came onto the stage and ordered Rod off because of a curfew.”

3. The article also appeared online under the headline “Rod Stewart storms off stage after gig cut short”. The subheading reported: “Fans were outraged when Sir Rod Stewart was not able to perform final song We are Sailing due to the venue’s strict curfew”. It further quoted social media posts of people who had attended the concert: “At 10:29 he is called to the side of the stage, was told ‘the mayor says you have gone over your curfew’, to which Rod shouts, ‘tell the mayor to f*** off!’ and then boom, stage in darkness and that’s that. […] Add to that, I walked past hundreds of people stranded at bus stops because Plymouth City Bus ‘forgot’ to put on extra buses.”

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as it had reported the singer had “storm[ed] off stage” and that the online article had quoted a social media post which suggested the Lord Mayor had stopped the show. The complainant said that the mayor was not in attendance and had not told the singer to leave, nor had the venue. In fact, the concert reached its natural conclusion and finished at 10.38pm which was after it was scheduled to finish.

5. The complainant also said that the article had reported as fact that the artist could not sing ‘We are Sailing’, however this was unconfirmed, and no set list had been published. The complainant further said it was inaccurate for the article to report that fans had issues with bus journeys home. It said that it had not been approached for comment prior to the publication of the article.

6. The publication did not accept a breach of the Editor’ Code. To support its position, it provided a video where it said the singer could be heard saying: “We can’t do anymore because of the curfew. We were going to do [We are] Sailing but we can’t do it because the...the Lord Mayor's here and he's told me to shut the f*** up." It said this corroborated the social media posts and therefore sufficient care was taken to report the disputed posts. It said that an established setlist website had published the setlist from the two previous shows, which showed that ‘We are Sailing’ was the last song. Given the singer’s admission that he “can't do anymore” because of the curfew; that the set had been cut short; that he planned to perform ‘We are Sailing’; as well as the previous setlists, the publication did not consider that it was inaccurate to state: “Fans were left outraged when Sir Rod Stewart was not able to perform final song We Are Sailing due to the venue’s strict curfew”. The publication said it was reasonable for the publication to rely on the information stated by the singer at his own concert.

7. It further said that the article accurately reported experiences of difficulties getting buses which had been posted on social media.

8. Upon receipt of a direct complaint, which established the correct position, the headline was updated to “Rod Stewart storms off stage as Plymouth gig 'ends early'”, the article was amended and a footnote correction was added on 26 June, the day the article was published:

A previous version of the story reported tweets from gig-goers that suggested Rod's set was stopped early as the 'Lord Mayor had put a stop to it' as he had 'gone over his curfew'. In fact, we can confirm that the Lord Mayor of Plymouth was not at the concert, and any decision as to why the concert ended before its licenced curfew time had nothing to do with Plymouth City Council nor Plymouth Argyle Football Club. We are happy to clarify this and apologise for the error.

9. In response, the complainant said the online article was published at 6am the day after the concert and that the video had only become available two or three days after the concert, therefore it speculated that the publication had not had access to it prior to the article’s publication. It further reiterated that the publication had not contacted the complainant for its comments and had just made assumptions from social media posts online and had presented them as fact.

10. The publication accepted that the video was supplied after the article was published but was satisfied it corroborated the social media posts.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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.

Mediated Outcome

11. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

12. The complainant requested a private apology acknowledging the publication did not fact check the article and that this had impacted the complainant’s business.

13. On 28 July 2023, the publication offered to remove the online article and to publish the following standalone correction and apology online:

Rod Stewart gig: A correction and apology

Our article 'Rod Stewart storms off stage after gig cut short', 25 June, reported as fact that Sir Rod Stewart was not able to perform his final song 'We Are Sailing' due to the 'venue's strict curfew'. In fact, it is unclear as to why the concert ended when it did, as Home Park has permission for concerts to run until 11pm, and a spokesperson for Plymouth City Council confirmed that 'Despite rumours and reports, Plymouth City Council and the venue did not ask Rod Stewart to finish early.' We are happy to clarify that this and apologise for the error.

The articles also reported tweets from gig-goers that suggested Rod's set was stopped early as the 'Lord Mayor had put a stop to it' as he had 'gone over his curfew'. In fact, we can confirm that the Lord Mayor of Plymouth was not at the concert, and any decision as to why the concert ended before its licenced curfew time had nothing to do with Plymouth City Council nor Plymouth Argyle Football Club. We are happy to clarify this and apologise for the error.

14. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction.

15. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

 

Date complaint received:  25/06/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  28/07/2023