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Reach pays ‘substantial’ settlement to ex-Sunday Express football writer fired over column criticising Liverpool FC fans

A former Sunday Express football writer who was sacked last year over a column criticising Liverpool FC fans has accepted a substantial settlement from publisher Reach.

Colin Mafham was suspended from the newspaper, where he spent 15 years on contract, in April last year and later dismissed for “gross misconduct”.

An employment tribunal was due to hear his case for unfair dismissal on 27 April.

But last month Mafham accepted an undisclosed but substantial cash offer from Reach which came with an “expression of regret” about events.

His sacking came after he wrote an online opinion piece in which he said Liverpool FC fans “frighten the living daylights” out of him and added: “Why does trouble seem to follow them like bees around a honey pot?”

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.

He wrote the column in response to clashes between LFC and Roma fans and an earlier incident in which the Manchester City FC team bus was attacked by people throwing bottles as it arrived at Liverpool’s ground for the Champions League quarter final last year.

The piece was taken down within a day following an online backlash, with David Prentice, head of sport at another Reach title the Liverpool Echo, describing it as “vile, presumptuous and repugnant”.

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 was fired in June following an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing, and his appeal against his dismissal was denied a month later.

He has previously turned down at least one cash settlement offer, describing one made through arbitrator ACAS in September last year as “derisory” and vowing to rectify the damage done to his reputation.

He has also previously described his dismissal as a “gag on freedom of speech” and a “terribly unjust slur” which ended his 50-year journalism career.

A Reach spokesperson said: “This is a confidential matter and we cannot comment on technicalities of specific cases.

“We stand by our previous response that freedom of expression for journalists ‘is not a free pass to publish ill-informed, inaccurate, and misjudged comments’.”

In its response to the case last year, Reach had said: “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.”

Comments

5 thoughts on “Reach pays ‘substantial’ settlement to ex-Sunday Express football writer fired over column criticising Liverpool FC fans”

  1. Freedom of speech is of course crucial and I’d agree he shouldn’t have been suspended . Perhaps his own prejudices and dislike or perhaps jealousy of Liverpool’s current success somewhat skewed his judgement and personal bile crept into this journalistic. “ opinion piece”. Bringing up terrible events of 30 years ago probably was offensive much more so I’d suggest in the issue of the Roma game than city which was by all accounts fair comment . I think the Roma comment was the one that did for him. It was an unprovoked attack by Roma ultras on Liverpool fans that left a man with life changing injuries so to lecture Liverpool fans about heysel in the wake of this was unsurprisingly felt to be offensive. Having said all that I personally don’t agree with suspending journalists.

  2. Justice has certainly been done here.
    The writer was clearly the victim of a Scouse-fuelled vendetta.
    I suppose we can now expect a fulsome, public apology to the badly maligned Mafham from Gary Jones and David Prentice?
    Or maybe not……

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