Former England manager Steve McClaren used celebrity PR agent Max Clifford to sell his side of a story detailing his extra-marital affair with a secretary to The Sun for £12,500, according to the paper.
The claim was made by the paper's barrister Richard Spearman QC during an injunction hearing on Saturday, 18 August, as McClaren sought unsuccessfully to stop a story appearing in The Sun the next day revealing details of an extra-marital affair with Saima Ansari.
During the injunction hearing, Spearman told the court that in 2006 McClaren did not attempt prevent publication of the story but had “deliberately put that affair into the public domain, selling his statement through the publicity agent, Max Clifford, for £12,500”.
Spearman said it had been “the claimant’s choice then to sell his story”, and also noted that since then McClaren had twice spoken publicly about his family in interviews with The Guardian and The Independent.
McClaren’s barrister, Hugh Tomlinson QC, claimed his client had “little choice” but to make the disclosure about his 2006 affair and that the question of whether or not he sold the story was “contentious”.
He told Mr Justice Lindblom it should not be assumed that it was a “voluntary disclosure”, and that the “the claimant might have been heading off publication by somebody else".
In his judgment, made public today, Lindblom said there was a clear public interest in The Sun’s latest McClaren expose.
Tomlinson had argued that McClaren’s right to privacy would be breached if The Sun ran the story of his affair and would cause serious harm to his “family life and to his own well-being”.
He claimed that as a one-time England manager McClaren, who now manages Dutch side FC Twente, “was not a public figure” and was “in no sense a role model”.
But in his judgment Lindblom said that “as a former manager of England’s football team, the claimant is in my view undoubtedly a public figure”.
“It is a matter of fact that he previously disclosed an extra-marital relationship in a national newspaper, saying that he was happily married and that his marriage would survive," he said.
“I accepted the submission that his right to privacy is not defeated by SA’s [Saima Ansari] willingness or enthusiasm to see the defendant’s article about their affair published. That is clearly right.
“But it did not, in my judgment, devalue the factors justifying publication when the balance in this case was struck. For the reasons submitted by Mr Spearman, I concluded that the defendant plainly had a legitimate interest in publishing its story.
“It was able to contend that the claimant belongs to the category of those from whom the public could reasonably expect a higher standard of conduct. Even if one allows for the degree of difference there must be between the position of a former manager and that of a serving captain of England’s football team, he is clearly still a prominent public figure who has held positions of responsibility in the national game.
“Whether or not the defendant’s story was a set-up – involving, as it did, a photograph taken surreptitiously by a journalist who seems to have been told where the claimant and SA would be – I saw as no more than peripheral to the balancing exercise I had to carry out.”
Caroline Kean, partner and head of litigation for the law firm Wiggins, told Press Gazette last week that the McClaren ruling was “very consistent” in the light of recent cases.
“Had it been applying to just over a year ago, I think he [McClaren] would have expected to get an injunction and probably would have been granted it,” she continued.
“You are never going to get rid of the privacy law – we have a privacy law and it is here to stay, but privacy isn’t the ultimate trump card.”