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Watch out sponsors, more sleaze is about to hit the fan

September 15, 2010

I do hope “Roo” has no more skeletons in his closet – or rather tarts in the boudoir. Because something really terrible has happened. No, not Mrs Rooney filing for divorce, though that would be terrible enough for Wayne’s remaining sponsorship deals with EA and Nike.

This is much worse, and has implications not just for adulterous Premier League footballers seeking to protect their sponsorship deals, but celebrities everywhere with peccadilloes to hide from the roving eye of the tabloid press.

And it is? Mr Justice Eady, the high court judge who has done such sterling work in shaping our libel and privacy laws these past few years, is relinquishing responsibility for defamation and privacy from next month. Oh come on, of course you’ve heard of him! The man whose judgements have put such asinine resonance into the phrase the Law is an Ass? Who makes Paul Dacre’s criticisms of him as “arrogant and amoral” seem wise and judicious? Who thought F1’s Max Moseley was perfectly entitled to carry out Kampf-themed flagellation in the privacy of his own sex parlour? Come on, where have you been? It’s all chronicled here, in an earlier post.

The point is this. Eady, whose political views evidently veer just to the left of Judge Jeffreys’, has been the celebrity’s constant friend, interceding with a sympathetic gagging order or superinjunction (can’t say a thing, anywhere, about anything) whenever their, er, vital commercial interests are threatened by the frivolous exposure of some “momentary” lapse of personal judgement.

Eady’s successor, Mr Justice Tugendhat, promises to be much less of a pushover in his interpretation of the Human Rights Act. Tugendhat it was who lifted the superinjunction brought by then Chelsea captain John Terry to muzzle media speculation about an affair with his former team mate’s ex-partner (for God’s sake). Tugendhat has raised the bar much higher for plaintiffs by insisting they prove that media coverage has affected them “substantially” before they can proceed. Watch out sponsors, lots more sleaze may be about to hit the fan.

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Why sponsors won’t be dribbling away from John Terry. Unless…

January 31, 2010

Among the many footballing clichés pithily describing the dilemma of putative England captain John Terry my favourite is “Own goal”.

Perroncel: Single outing

Terry was poorly advised in applying for an all-gagging superinjunction on the grounds that the revelation of an adulterous affair with lingerie model Vanessa Perroncel might harm his “financial affairs”. It was another example of a bad call by celebs’ favourite law firm Schillings, which has been in the forefront of blunting freedom of expression through the exploitation of privacy laws that operate under Article 8 of the European Convention of human rights. Last December, Mr Justice Eady was widely ridiculed for the absurdity of an injunction which forbad sexual athlete Tiger Wood’s naked anatomy being taken in vain. And Schillings were the people who brought it before him. This time, they were less lucky in the choice of judge presiding over the case. Sir Michael Tugendhat seems, on reflection, to have taken a dim view of an orchestrated cover-up designed to protect the financial interests of an erring footballer.

Anyway, back to Terry. Presumably it was his estimated £4m-a-year sponsorship money he was concerned about rather than the £200,000 a week he earns as Chelsea captain. If so, he had – and I suggest has – little to fear on that account. Samsung, Nationwide, Umbro and Terry are all in this enterprise together.  I have no idea whether it is the stern disciplinarian or the shrewd pragmatist in England manager Fabio Capello that will win out as he reflects on Terry as a fit and proper symbol to lead England. And in the event it doesn’t much matter. Even if Terry is “demoted”, he will still be on the front bench – which is status enough for his sponsors to keep faith.

Ah, but what about the example of Woods, you say? Once it became apparent the golfing legend was guilty as charged of multiple adultery, Accenture and Gillette jumped ship. Even Nike, which continued to back its man, has begun to withdraw support.

The important difference between these two cases is contained in the word ‘multiple’. So far as we know, Terry has only had one extramarital affair. Woods, on the other hand, quickly became overwhelmed with an avalanche of revelations which effectively forced his withdrawal from public life. With no further glory on the links in prospect, sponsors became disillusioned. I doubt they will feel the same about Terry’s singular excursion from the straight and narrow. Unless, of course, there’s something he hasn’t told us yet…


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