The Sun has admitted its reporter attended an attack on the home of Manchester United boss Ed Woodward, but said the journalist was not aware that any criminal activity would take place.
Manchester United complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the Sun’s coverage of the attack, which it ran as an exclusive back page story on 29 January.
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The article was also published online with the headline: “Man Utd fans throw flares at Ed Woodward’s house in shocking scenes as anti-board protests continue to escalate.”
The football club said it believed the Sun had received advance notice of the attack, which saw a smoke bomb and fireworks thrown at Woodward’s Cheshire home by a gang of “hooded supporters”.
Executive vice-chairman Woodward, his wife and two young children were out at the time of the attack on 28 January.
But the club criticised the fact that a Sun journalist was present to witness the “criminal damage and intent to intimidate” that took place.
“Not only did the journalist fail to discharge the basic duty of a responsible member of society to report an impending crime and avert potential danger and criminal damage, his presence both encouraged and rewarded the perpetrators,” the club said.
“We believe that this was a clear breach of both the [Independent Press Standards Organisation] Editors’ code and journalistic ethics.”
A Sun spokesperson confirmed a reporter for the paper had attended the incident and “condemns fully” what happened, but said the paper “vigorously defends its right to report”.
They said: “Following a tip-off that there was to be a protest a Sun reporter attended. The Sun accurately reported the events that unfolded.
“At no time was our reporter made aware of what was to take place nor incited it or encouraged any criminal activity. The article made it clear that the behaviour was criminal and unacceptable.”
The Sun said it was “happy to cooperate fully” with any police inquiry into the incident. It will also defend the complaint to IPSO.
Woodward has come under criticism in recent weeks as Manchester United fell to eighth place in the Premier League after sitting in fifth.
Manchester United claimed IPSO’s ruling would prove to be an “important test of the self-regulatory system for newspapers and its ability to uphold ethical standards in the press”.