Ruling

Resolution statement 20040-17 McKinney v belfastlive.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      8th February 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination

Resolution statement 20040-17 McKinney v belfastlive.co.uk

1. Ian McKinney complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that belfastlive.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Bigotry is shaming the beautiful game”, published on 13 November 2017.

2. The article reported the columnist’s opinion on racist and sectarian behaviour at both Irish League and Northern Ireland international football matches. It stated that “positive steps to eradicate any kind of sectarian behaviour have been successful” in the Irish League, but that the columnist did not believe that this was not the case at an international level. The article stated that the Northern Ireland team is “deemed a more Protestant team,” and “many nationalists feel unrepresented because of God Save The Queen being played and songs like The Billy Boys and the Bouncy being sung”. It included the columnist’s comment that “Everyone should be welcome to support whoever they want. Kick racism and bigotry out and enjoy football for what it is.“

3. The complainant said that “The Billy Boys” had not been sung at a Northern Ireland football match for over 20 years, and that the song “Bouncy” was not offensive in the manner insinuated by the columnist. The complainant expressed concern that the alleged inaccuracies would undermine efforts made to remove sectarianism from Northern Ireland’s international football matches. He also said that the article was in breach of Clause 12, as it accused supporters of the Northern Ireland football team of “injecting hateful bigotry”.

4. The publication said that it was not possible to determine whether or not “The Billy Boys” had been sung by anyone at Northern Ireland football matches within the last few years, and provided evidence which it said demonstrated its position that this was in dispute. Nevertheless, the publication accepted that it was inaccurate to report as fact that “The Billy Boys” was still being sung. It said that it had complied with its obligations under Clause 1 (ii) by removing this reference from the article. The publication also published a follow-up article which it said outlined an alternative opinion to the original article. The publication also said that an apology was posted on Twitter by the Editor, and retweeted by the publication’s official Twitter account.

Relevant Code provisions

5. 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.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Mediated outcome

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

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the following clarification on the home page of its website for 24 hours, to be subsequently archived:

“A previous version of the article 'Bigotry is shaming the beautiful game' 13 November 2017, suggested that the 'Billy Boys' was still being sung at Northern Ireland games at Windsor Park. This was based on the columnist's wrongful assumption. We are happy to clarify that we recognise the continual development of facing sectarianism between Northern Ireland fans and the Irish Football Association, and would like to apologise for this inaccuracy”.

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

9. 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: 14/11/2017

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 15/01/2018