A former Sunday Express football writer who was sacked earlier this year for his column criticising Liverpool FC fans has turned down a cash settlement offer from publisher Reach.
Colin Mafham, who spent 15 years on contract with the title, decribed the offer, made through arbitrator ACAS last month, as “derisory”. The case is now expected to go to an employment tribunal next year.
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Mafham was suspended in April and later dismissed for “gross misconduct” after writing an online column in which he said Liverpool FC fans “frighten the living daylights” out of him.
In the piece, Mafham said he hoped fans would learn from both the Hillsborough disaster, at which 96 people died, and the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster, which resulted in 39 deaths and saw 14 LFC supporters jailed for manslaughter, so they would never be repeated.
The article, which was taken down on the day of publication following widespread criticism, asked: “Why does trouble seem to follow them [Liverpool fans] like bees round a honey pot?”
Express editor Gary Jones, himself a Liverpool FC fan, apologised to the Mayor of Liverpool over the column and the newspaper issued an apology calling it “ill-informed and wrong”.
Mafham (pictured) was fired in June on the grounds of gross misconduct following an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing. His appeal over the decision was denied a month later.
He has previously described his dismissal as a “gag on freedom of speech” and a “terribly unjust slur” which ended his 50-year journalism career.
Asked why he refused the settlement, Mafham told Press Gazette: “Because it in no way represents the pain and the humiliation that I have suffered as a result of this action.”
He added that “rectifying” the “needless damage” to his reputation was of “paramount” importance to him.
A spokesperson for Reach, which bought the Express titles in February, declined to comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.
However the publisher has previously said: “Talking in general terms, freedom of expression for journalists is not a free pass to publish ill-informed, inaccurate, and misjudged comments.
“When journalists are given a platform for their opinions, it comes with the quid pro quo that what they write is to be founded on fact and reasoned argument.”