Football agent wins damages and apology from gossip website

Football agent Anthony McGill has accepted substantial damages and a public apology from the publisher of a soccer transfer gossip website which published a story which falsely suggested he was “tapping up” Celtic goalkeeper Artur Boruc for a move to Aston Villa.

The story first appeared in the Daily Record on 13 April and was picked up and used by a website run by 365 Media Group plc, Victoria Shore, counsel for McGill, told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court.

“The defendant quoted the Daily Record article that Boruc had accepted an invitation from the claimant to visit Villa Park and watch Villa play. It also stated that the claimant has set up the deals that took Petrov and Maloney (other Celtic players) to the Midlands,” Ms Shore said.

The allegations, on a website which claimed a monthly audience of about a million, were understood to mean that Mr McGill was engaged with Villa manager Martin O’Neill in attempting to induce Boruc to break his contract and join Villa without his club’s permission, and was guilty of what was known as “tapping up”, she said.

“‘Tapping up’ has become a subject of intense media interest in recent years and those associated with it have been the subject of opprobrium.

“If found guilty of ‘tapping up’, the claimant feared that his licence to act as a football agent would, at worst be lost, and at best, be suspended for a substantial period, thereby losing his livelihood,” Ms Shore said.

Far from inducing Boruc to leave Celtic, Mr McGill had, when asked for advice by the goalkeeper, told him to sign his contract and stay at Celtic.

The allegations had severely damaged Mr McGill’s reputation and caused him serious distress, Ms Shore went on.

He had already receive substantial damages for libel from the Daily Record in proceedings in Scotland.

In April Mr O’Neill had accepted an offer of amends from 365 Media Group over the allegations against him in story it used on its website.

The defendant now accepted that the allegations relating to Mr McGill were without foundation and should not have been published. As well as apologising, the defendant was paying him substantial damages and his costs.

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