Celtic manager wins payout over BBC book slur

Celtic manager Martin O’Neill has accepted substantial damages and an apology from the BBC over allegations that he had “exploited the loose disciplines of football” by buying and selling players signed to a football agent business he had shares in, writes Roger Pearson.

O’Neill, who has worked as a football pundit for the BBC, sued BBC Worldwide over allegations in the book Football Confidential 2, a follow-up to a series of programmes on Radio Five Live in 2002 entitled On the Line, and publicity given to the book.

The book, which claimed to “lift the lid on the secret life of football”, named the Celtic boss as one of 10 managers with shares in the Proactive Sports Group, which represents a number of high-profile players including Nicky Butt and Wayne Rooney.

It was alleged that any such shareholding might have given rise to a potential conflict of interest were a manager to buy or sell a player represented by the company.

The High Court was told this week by O’Neill’s solicitor, Paul Hackney, that his client had agreed to accept a formal apology and “substantial damages” from the BBC and co-author of the book Richard McIlroy.

Alex Marzec, counsel for the BBC, said: “The defendants accept that the claimant did not buy or sell players who were represented by Proactive while he was a shareholder in that company.

“The BBC would also like to withdraw and apologise for a statement made in a press release promoting the book, which suggested that, by virtue of his shareholding, O’Neill had exploited the loose disciplines of football.

They accept that this is untrue.”

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