Soccer star Rio Ferdinand yesterday claimed that a Sunday Mirror kiss and tell story about an alleged affair was a “gross invasion of my privacy”.
He described how the April 2010 Sunday Mirror article, which appeared when he was England captain, put a strain on his relationship with wife Rebecca, the mother of his three children, and caused “great distress”.
The 32-year-old Manchester United centre-back told Mr Justice Nicol, who is hearing his claim for substantial damages from MGN Ltd, that the story sold to the newspaper by interior designer Carly Storey for £16,000 “came out of the blue”.
He said: “It has been stressful and embarrassing for me to have to explain it to fellow professionals as well as family members and friends, and it has inevitably put a strain on my relationship with my wife.”
He told London’s High Court he had “not met this girl for six years” by the time the article was published.
The story, which was produced in court in a redacted form, was headed “My affair with England captain Rio” and claimed that Ferdinand ended a 13-year relationship with Ms Storey within days of being handed the skipper’s armband in February 2010.
Ferdinand said in court: “Although I am a well-known person I make a clear distinction between my public and private life and do not seek publicity for my personal life.
“I do not see why I should not be entitled to a private life just because I am a famous footballer.”
He told the court: “I accept that I have had a lot of benefits as a result of fame and fortune.
“I am not asking for any special treatment or to pretend that I am above criticism or a better person than anyone else.
“All I am asking for is the normal right to lead a private life which anyone has.”
He said he felt “angry and upset” at the payment to Ms Storey.
Asked why he brought his action for misuse of private information, he answered: “I just thought a line needs to be drawn. There comes a time to say ‘no’ and this is the time.”
He accepted there had been “controversial and regrettable episodes” in his past, and these had made him reflect on what was expected of him, but he had never claimed to be a role model on issues of morality or sexual conduct.
MGN claims it was in the public interest to run the story about Ferdinand, who replaced John Terry as England captain before Terry was reinstated by manager Fabio Capello this year.
Ferdinand succeeded Terry at a time when the captaincy’s image was badly damaged and those concerned about a captain’s off-field behaviour had the right to know the facts in the article, said counsel Gavin Millar QC.
It was self-evident from the nature and length of the relationship that kissing and telling was not Storey’s aim.
But Ferdinand’s QC, Hugh Tomlinson, said the information was “entirely private” and the true purpose in publishing was to sell newspapers and titillate readers.
The issue for the judge is whether the newspaper was justified in publishing because the over-riding public interest was such that its Article 10 rights to freedom of expression trumped Ferdinand’s Article 8 privacy rights of the Human Rights Act.