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Saturday, 30 March, 2002, 15:29 GMT
'Kiss and tell' footballer named
Garry Flitcroft
Garry Flitcroft (top) captains Blackburn Rovers
The footballer at the heart of a privacy row over a "kiss and tell" story has been named as Blackburn Rovers team captain Garry Flitcroft.

Mr Flitcroft failed in a final attempt to keep his identity secret pending a possible House of Lords appeal.

The married footballer had won an injunction last year to stop the Sunday People naming him in a story alleging he had had extra-marital affairs.

Garry Flitcroft
Lord Woolf said Garry Flitcroft left his appeal too late

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, refused to extend a ban on naming Mr Flitcroft - who played in Blackburn's match against Leicester on Saturday - while he tried to get the House of Lords to hear his case.

The ban ran out at midnight (0000 GMT) on Friday.

The naming of Mr Flitcroft comes just days after the Mirror newspaper was ordered to pay 3,500 damages to Naomi Campbell for publishing pictures of her leaving a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.

High Court judge Mr Justice Morland ruled on Wednesday that the supermodel's confidentiality had been breached.

'Gagging attempt'

The original injunction preventing the Sunday People from naming Mr Flitcroft, 29, was based on a ruling that the laws of confidentiality protected details of relationships outside marriage.

It provoked fears of overly harsh privacy regulations being developed, with then-press watchdog boss Lord Wakeham, condemning it as "a free licence for the bully and the cheat".


It is about being allowed to investigate the seamier side of individuals

Mark Stephens, privacy lawyer

BBC media correspondent Torin Douglas says the implications of the case are far more wide-reaching than the content of the story involved, and that "newspapers are fighting back".

Sunday People editor Neil Wallis said that had the ruling stood, newspapers would not have been able to report the fact that former US President Bill Clinton had had an affair with Monica Lewinsky.

The newspaper's challenge had not been specifically about this particular story, but about a general principle.

"What this was really about was someone trying to gag us because he had the wealth to misuse the law," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

"We had to stop that, not just for this story, but for all future expose-type stories."

Privacy lawyer Mark Stephens said newspapers were "standing together" on the issue which was "an important principle of free speech".

'Spoiling tactic'

But Mike Jempson, director of the PressWise Trust, a pressure group which campaigns against newspaper intrusion, said he did not believe stories about footballers having alleged affairs warranted invasion of privacy.

"If this had been the Archbishop of Canterbury or a cabinet minister promoting monogamy then it would be justified," he said.


It is a pity the issue of press freedom has been dressed up around this tawdry story

Mike Jempson, PressWise Trust
"It is a pity the issue of press freedom has been dressed up around this tawdry story."

In refusing to extend the ban on naming Mr Flitcroft, Lord Woolf said the footballer had left his appeal too late, and that there had been so much publicity about the case the reasons for the original injunction were no longer valid.

He added that the player was reported to be negotiating with another newspaper with a view to selling his version of what had happened in what was perhaps "a spoiling tactic".

Despite the granting of an injunction against identifying Mr Flitcroft, the Sunday People eventually ran the story without naming the protagonists in November.

The judge ordered the footballer to pay the costs of his failed application, estimated in the region of 4,000.

'Private matter'

Mr Flitcroft was signed by Blackburn Rovers for 3m from Manchester City in 1996.

Rovers on Saturday dismissed the details of Mr Flitcroft's personal life as a private matter.

The club said in a statement: "We would always hope that all employees of Blackburn Rovers Football Club would act in a responsible and acceptable manner when representing the club and we would never condone any behaviour which threatened its good name.

"Our understanding is that nothing unlawful occurred or is alleged. This is essentially a private matter and, therefore, we cannot comment further.

"We are, though, naturally concerned at a most untimely intrusion as we continue to strive to maintain our Premiership status."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Torin Douglas
"It's still not clear where the right to privacy starts and ends"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
As Garry Flitcroft is named as the footballer involved in two allegedly adulterous affairs, should the UK have tougher privacy laws?Kiss and tell
Should the UK have tougher privacy laws?
See also:

30 Mar 02 | Blackburn Rovers
Flitcroft in the spotlight
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