If I'm standing in a pub making some pretty harsh statements about the club I support, and someone representing the club happens to overhear what I say, can the club then purse legal action against me? I would think not. Sharing an opinion with friends or whoever is just that. An opinion. The club - and no one - can stop our freewill to say what we want to say. Freedom of speech has to count for something.
Thus far, I've not had anything (other than the retraining orders and electronic tags....and the community service) done to me. Though I've opted for a more 'open' approach to not judge until judgement calls for it.
And why should the club even consider taking action against me? In some ways, a football terrace/stand is also a forum, just without the lag time and stupid avatars. I'm only blogging my opinions in a constructive and unbiased manner. Whether its online or at the bus stop. But then again, maybe a case is being built to swipe down at me and wipe me out once and for all.
Let them try.
Though I would be curious to know what exactly this particular supporter (of Sheff Wed) posted on a forum that made the club (whom he also worked for) purse him legally. I'm guessing he mugged himself off in some way by making threatening comments or calling someone a cunt. Or maybe he revealed information that was private to Sheffield Wednesday that he found out by being on the premises. I don't know. He fails to mention it in the below statement he posted in the forum in question explaining why he was offline for so long. All his posts were deleted on his request.
His message is simply a 'be careful what you say' warning because someone maybe watching.
Here it is:
Statement from Sheffield Wednesday fan -
"I have been a Wednesday supporter for pretty much all of my life, and until last season had missed less than 5 home games since 1981. My family are all Sheffield Wednesday supporters, and they are similar attendees, we all attend games together, as do my children who both attended games before they could walk. I think you could say my interest in Sheffield Wednesday borders on the obsessional.
I worked at Hillsborough on the Players Entrance from 1981 to 1987. My father worked the Players Entrance from 1967 to 1989, and only stopped then following the Hillsborough Disaster. My Grandfather worked the Players Entrance and Directors Entrance as a Commissionaire from 1949 to his death in 1988. He was working at Hillsborough the day my Grandmother died at home of a heart attack in 1986, and he worked right through to 6 weeks before his death.
I am a shareholder of the club, as were my Father and Grandfather. I was a founder member of the Owlstrust, a supporters association founded some years ago and now named Wednesdayite, who own a 10% share of the club. I was also a founder member of the Sheffield Wednesday Shareholders Association, and worked as Secretary of the Association for 5 years. This led to my being fairly high profile as a supporter/shareholder within the Hillsborough infrastructure.
I was also an active member of the Swallownest Supporters Club, of which my Grandfather was Secretary which raised thousands of pound for the club.
I have also engaged in significant fundraising over the years, from developing the giant flag which supporters took to Wembley in 1993 (raising ﾣ1500 for Sheffield Children’s Hospital along the way), and raising several thousands of pounds more over the years to pay for blue and white balloons, flags and other initiatives designed to improve the atmosphere at Hillsborough for big games. I have also (with the clubs permission) arranged for leaflet drops at turnstiles and outside the ground aimed at encouraging supporters to back the team and not boo players over the years."
The bones of the story -
Its been a long time since I posted here on Owlstalk - although I understand quite a few people have asked about me - which is nice, thanks.
My last post on Owlstalk was back in February 2006 - when many of you will remember was shortly after I had been asked to leave the clubs executive area when I was dining with a friend of mine who owned an executive box. I say 'owned' rather than 'owns' because as a result of that day he hasn't renewed his box, and actually hasn't returned to Hillsborough either since then.
Later that day I was contacted by the Admin of Owlstalk and advised that the club were looking to pursue legal action against me for alleged defamation. This was the first time I had been aware of any offence being taken as a result of my postings on this message board - and although this news was broken to me indirectly - I asked Admin to delete my account and all of my postings. This was the easiest way of ensuring that any offensive posts disappeared for good.
Some weeks later I was written to by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors - who advised me that the club were looking to pursue legal action against me for defamation, however this could be avoided if I paid the clubs legal bill and apologised. I chose not to take advice from a solicitor at that stage - and offered to meet their demands. I had no wish to enter into a lengthy, and above all, costly legal battle. If I'm honest - neither did I want to see my football club enter into a legal battle either that would not only prove costly, but in my opinion potentially divisive too. At the time Irwin Mitchell claimed that their legal bill was £2500 - and I offered to pay it on receipt of a summary of costs, as I felt that was extremely expensive for sending me a letter - obviously they had to account for consultation with their client too - but I still felt within my rights to request this. I was written to again by Irwin Mitchell who told me I should expect to be paying damages as well as costs of around £40,000.00.
Some weeks passed - and shortly after I was called to a meeting with my employer. Irwin Mitchell had written to them on behalf of the club reserving the right to impound my work laptop, and copying my employer in on all of the allegations they were making about me. Obviously this was embarrassing, especially as at that time some of the quotes attributed to me were not actually made by me. Additionally the letter from Irwin Mitchell had asked if my employer found it appropriate that I was making posts to Owlstalk in working hours - although my time was, and is, always flexible and to be fair - Irwin Mitchells would not have known that.
I discussed the issue with several close (wednesdayite) friends, and I was advised by Daryl Keys of Wednesdayite that I should speak to another Wednesdayite who had heard of the problems I was experiencing and had offered to support me with the use of his solicitor. This proved to be a tremendous help. The solicitor advised me throughout - and removed much of the worry. We were contacted a number of times requesting costs be paid (these had escalated enormously) and for the apology to be made - and as a result of the escalation in costs we always maintained that we had offered to pay the costs when they were £2500 and apologise - and that this offer stood.
After 14th February 2007 - I was advised by my solicitor that the deadline of 12 months for issuing proceedings to me had passed without incident and that the problem was no longer. The solicitor was paid by my Wednesdayite benefactor and I began to get on with life. Anyone who has been through what I have will know how painful and worrying a process it is - it made my divorce seem like a birthday party.
Around 2 weeks ago I was contacted again by my solicitor who advised me that the club had issued proceedings against me on 13th February (on the last possible day they could). They had also waited the maximum possible time (4 months) to serve those proceedings. Their reason for doing this is known only to them.
Having met with my solicitor and considered their Particulars of Claim - my solicitor has concluded that the claim is so unlikely to succeed that they have offered to represent me on a CFA basis (no win-no fee).
And that is the current state of play. Right now the solicitors are at the sending letters to each other to clarify points stage - but there is a very real possibility that this case could well end up in court now - and that’s what I wanted to avoid at the outset. Regardless of the fact that my benefactor is covering all of the legal costs - it is still a very worrying time - and my advice to anyone on this site or others - is watch your words - they are being scrutinised and I would hate for anyone to have the 16 months I've just experienced.
If the re-development of White Hart Lane or a move to a new location sets Levy and the club back several hundred million, he might go after every single one of us, for every single little comment made in anger or jest, posted in a forum or a newsgroup. If he sued each person who slated him or the club for £40,000 he could make a tidy £20,000,000,000. Not a bad little revenue maker that.
If you are suddenly worried about what you post on forums and the like, then be ashamed. Never hold back. Always speak your mind. The simple fact is that in essence I(you) am(are) the club. Like every other fan. Without us, the club would not exist. Levy bringing these type of charges against me would be akin to him trying to piss out of a passenger window whilst driving down the motorway.
My warning is.....do not cut off your nose to spite your face. Unless you have a seriously ugly nose. Which Levy doesn't have. For the record. In case anyone is reading this.