Should Mark Clattenburg Sue for Defamation?

Mark Clattenburg has now been cleared of using racist comments by the FA. As such, he is now free to return to the top echelons of officialdom after 3 weeks in the mire. Mr Clattenburg expressed relief at being cleared of the charges, however, he has maintained all along that he was innocent of these charges, and as such he readily admits that he was scared for his career. The question now, which is on every defamation lawyers lips, is, should he now take action against Chelsea Football Club for defamation of character?

Referees have a difficult enough job, but to be accused of being a racist is beyond the pale, not just for referees but for anyone. Look at the most recent example of Frankie Boyle, who rightly took umbrage against being referred to as a racist and was vindicated in doing so via the Courts, thanks to swift and decisive action taken by his defamation lawyers. The protection of ones reputation on the internet is vitally important, especially for individuals in the public eye.

A distinction must be drawn in Mr Clattenburg’s case as to when the defamation actually took place. It cannot be said that the defamation took place when Ramires made his witness statement, stating he heard Mr Clattenburg make a racist remark to his colleague John Obi Mikel. Neither can it be said that the defamation occurred when the FA conducted its investigation. However, when the issue was made public, the defamation trigger was set.

The fact that Mr Clattenburg has now been acquitted of all charges means that the defamation trigger has now gone off. There is no truth to justify the allegations made against him. There can be no doubt that during the last 3 weeks his commercial and personal reputation has been detrimentally affected in the eyes of his peers and members of the public. His online reputation has been shot to pieces.

Had this complaint remained private and confidential we would not need to be having this discussion, but its leakage into the public domain has in turn unlawfully damaged Mr Clattenburg’s physical and online reputation, contrary to defamation law, thereby giving him a cause of action. Anything that happened before the matter leaked into the public domain i.e. during the investigation stages is protected by a privilege defence, anything that was said after that is fair game for all the defamation lawyers out there. There is no doubt that leaking this matter into the public domain has caused defamatory comments to made on various online forums, which has in turn led to the ‘Is Mark Clattenburg a racist?’ auto suggestion on Google. This can all be linked back to the leaking of this complaint into the public domain, and will therefore aggravate any damages in defamation that Mr Clattenburg will no doubt claim should he bring a claim in defamation.

John Spyrou

Head of Media and Internet Law

Pinder Reaux & Associates

Business Services News

Read Next


What people say

"We shall, no doubt, be engaging you again soon"

"The matter was concluded very successfully and I’d like to thank John and Wilson again for their helpful and highly professional work earlier this year."

Alex Bailey, Trichromic LLP'

"Great Source of Support"

"You have essentially achieved what we had set out to do. Thank you for all of your assistance in this matter. Throughout this ordeal, you have been a great source of support."

Mary Anne Poutanen, Canada

"I could not have chosen a better firm to represent me."

"You provided the key essentials (and more) for client satisfaction. I am extremely pleased with the services provided by your company and the legal team provided for me. To also turnaround my situation making it a positive outcome, I could not have chosen a better firm to represent me."

Marvyn Smith, London

"I would recomend this service to anyone who has a legal matter"

"I'm so glad I had this advice before my CMD. I was very much prepared and think my company (whom I'm taking to a tribunal) were shocked at my knowledge. I would recommend this service to anyone who has a legal matter."

Jacqueline Stevenson, Bristol

"Can’t wait for another session!"

"John Spyrou kindly offered to provide our publishing firm with an update on libel and defamation law. Those who attended - a mix of veteran editors and those new to the world of journalism - all said how practical and useful they found the training – and now can’t wait for another session!"

Paul Snell, Redactive Media Group

"Highly recommended"

"Alana & Pinder Reaux’s level of service has been exceptionally high. Always keen to help out with the work in an efficient manner. Highly recommended."

Trading Point of Financial Instruments UK Ltd

"Fast and Reliable"

"Fast and reliable notary service for notarisation/legalisation of College reports for foreign office and embassies."

Student Services Department, CATS College London

"One step ahead of the opposition"

"'John Spyrou has the ability to pre-empty arguments and see issues before they arise, thereby allowing him to be one step ahead of the opposition’"

Christopher Bovey, Angelbird Technologies GmbH