Rooney’s deal with The Sun was criticised by the Liverpool Echo
Fifteen years after The Sun’s ill-judged Hillsborough coverage caused its Merseyside sales to collapse, the paper has offered its first full apology.
- August 27, 2019
- July 3, 2018
- September 28, 2017
The unilateral move was prompted by a backlash in Liverpool this week after news that England and Everton footballer Wayne Rooney had signed up for a reported £250,000 to tell his story to The Sun and News of the World.
The Liverpool Echo reported the news on Saturday, prompting criticism of Rooney from its readers.
On Wednesday The Sun responded with a fulsome apology, published in all editions, for “the most terrible mistake in its history”.
Under then editor Kelvin MacKenzie, The Sun ran a front-page story, headlined “Hillsborough: The Truth”, following the April 1999 disaster in which 95 Liverpool fans were crushed to death.
The paper falsely alleged that fans had urinated on police, stolen from victims and beaten up a policeman who was trying to give the kiss of life.
The paper lost 200,000 sales within a week and its circulation in Liverpool has never recovered.
In Wednesday’s apology, The Sun admitted to “carelessness and thoughtlessness following that blackest of days” and said: “We gladly say sorry again today: fully, openly, honestly and without reservation.”
But it also said: “What we find impossible to take, though, is the way some of Liverpool is turning its anger on one of the greatest footballing talents the city has ever seen.”
Sun assistant editor Graham Dudman said: “Over the years there have been several attempts to run an apology that would satisfy everybody in Liverpool. There were negotiations involving Stuart Higgins and David Yelland that fell at the last hurdle.
“There were also discussions with Rebekah [Wade] when she took over.
The main problem was that people in Liverpool would never accept an apology unless we told them who our source was.
“We decided an apology was never going to happen and then the Rooney situation reared its head. He started to get a lot of criticism from people in Liverpool, stirred up by the Daily Post and the Echo, and we decided this is ridiculous. He’s being criticised for something which happened when he was two or three years old.
“I spoke last night to some people who lost children at Hillsborough and they are never going to forgive us. It wouldn’t matter if we put an apology on page one every day for a week.”
Liverpool Echo editor Mark Dickinson rebutted the allegation made in The Sun that his paper had “stirred up” anger in the city because it is owned by Daily Mirror parent company Trinity Mirror.
And he said: “All we’ve done is report how people in Liverpool feel about their deal with Rooney.” He added that The Sun’s apology was “a rather cynical circulation strategy from a paper that has lost its way on Merseyside”.
By Dominic Ponsford