A great legal own-goal for Roy of the Rovers
I HAVE always had the highest regard for Mr X as a footballer.
His only serious failing in that regard is his lamentable decision to play all his career for Melchester Rovers instead of for my team. And indeed, similarly, to represent another nation rather than England.
On the rare occasions when he speaks in public at all, he tends to speak reasonably well about football. Not about much else, but then why should he? He is, after all, a footballer.
Frankly, I don’t know much else about him. And indeed, why should we? What business, or interest, is it of ours?
It seems now, however, that as a human being he is… well… human.
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He has, unremarkably enough, a sex life. One which now turns out to be a little less than straightforward. Which is also normal enough – and not just for footballers.
Few of us, I suspect, would want the details of our romantic activities to be widely known. I can sympathise with Mr X there.
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On the other hand, being rich and famous has brought him huge privileges. The almost inevitable down side of which is a certain loss of privacy.
Had he been prepared to take the rough with the smooth, Mr X would have found his sex life made public months ago.
It would undoubtedly have been embarrassing. For a little while.
By now, his bedroom games would be long-discarded chip-wrapping. While his football game would continue to delight.
Mr X, however, has been badly advised. Perhaps by fellow footballers, perhaps by an agent or other interested party, maybe even by his wronged wife.
Possibly by m’learned friend, who is clearly the chief beneficiary.
Because Mr X was encouraged to use some of his great wealth to prevent disclosure of his private life to the public. And so he took out what has come to be known as a super-injunction.
Also known, more graphically, as a gagging order.
One of the curious effects of which has been that while I have known of the case for weeks, as a journalist I have not been allowed to mention it.
Frankly, if it were only Mr X’s love-life at issue I wouldn’t be interested anyway.
But his recourse to law, his attempt to use money to hush things up, is of much more vital concern.
His love-life is perhaps of passing interest to the public.
His privileged use of a bad piece of legislation should be more so. Indeed, breaking that law – not just transgressing it, but getting rid of it entirely – is most definitely in the public interest.
Which is why Mr X may ultimately, inadvertently, have done us all a favour.
After being exposed by thousands of Twitter users, and then more crucially in the House of Commons by MP John Hemming, Roy Race – yes, I can now name him! – has been the implement by which a coach and horses has been driven through that lousy law.
And why is it a lousy law?
Not because a number of overpaid sporting stars – yes, there are others! – have used it to try to conceal their away games.
Not merely because, like so much of the law, it serves only the interests of the rich.
But because among the 80-odd such injunctions still functioning there could be some that are more serious.
Take Sir Fred Goodwin. From 2001 to 2009 he was chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He presided over the bank’s rapid rise, and then its even more rapid fall.
In 2008 the bank lost a British record �24.1billion. While the British taxpayer picked up the tab – a substantial factor in the nation’s economic woes – Goodwin, then 50, rode off into the sunset with a pension of about �700,000 a year.
Meanwhile, he was allegedly having an affair with another of the bank’s senior staff. Something which may or may not have involved “a serious breach of corporate governance” at the now-nationalised bank.
He didn’t want us to know that. We only do because Lord Stoneham revealed it in the House of Lords, leading to the lifting of an injunction.
A bank source now says it is “slightly ludicrous” to suggest Sir Fred’s decision-making was impaired by any affair. Equally ludicrously, the same source likens the alleged dalliance to “holidays and hobbies”.
Following an investigation, the bank says: “We are satisfied the employee in question did not compromise the bank in any way.”
Maybe. But is the whole matter of interest?
More to the point, is it in the public interest to know about it?
You bet it is.
If not a multi-billion-pound bet, then at least a �700,000 one.
Meanwhile, how come we all now know about Roy Race but still can’t even name the other footballers, the manager, the TV star, the actor, the comedian, the world-famous athlete and the “rich public figure” who still have super-injunctions in force?
Maybe it’s time for Mr Hemmings or Lord Stoneham to get to their feet again. Or for Twitter to get busy once more.