Platinum Stars vs. Sunday Sun (2)
Thu, Aug 30, 2012
Ruling by the Deputy Press Ombudsman
August 30, 2012
This ruling is based on the written submissions of Mr Floyd Mbele, for Platinum Stars, and the Sunday Sun newspaper.
The soccer club Platinum Stars (PS) complains about a column in the Sunday Sun on 4 March 2012, headlined Writing is on the wall! – Ruud Krol now linked with the job at Diwkena.
Club chairman Floyd Mbele complains that the column falsely alleged that:
- Ruud Krol was linked with the coaching job at PS;
- the relationship between Mbele and Owen da Gama was unhealthy; and
- there was interference with the club’s technical team.
He also complains that PS was not given a right of reply.
The column, written by Mathews Mpete, was about “nonsense” that had been developing at North-West-based soccer club PS and that it had to come to an end fast. The article stated that the coach, Owen da Gama, was said not to be in Mbele’s good books and that “arrogant” Dutch coach Ruud Krol was tipped to take up the coaching job as Da Gama’s replacement.
Krol linked with coaching
The column says: “Now arrogant Dutch coach Ruud Krol has been tipped to take up the coaching job at Dikwena as Owen’s replacement.” This is also reflected in the sub-headline.
Mbele complains that this was untrue.
The Sunday Sun says that it was widely reported in the media that Krol was linked with the coaching job at PS. It refers me to seven stories in different publications that either said that Krol was set to replace the suspended coach, or speculated about this possibility. It also points me to some stories to this effect that was published after the article in dispute appeared.
The newspaper adds that Krol was seen sitting in the presidential box at a PS game.
The publication argues that:
- the text was a column in which Mpete expressed his own opinion;
- it is common practice among sport journalists to debate the future coaching positions of sports teams; and
- there was no malice in this reporting.
The newspaper concludes that the statement was presented as a possibility, not as fact.
The newspaper’s arguments are correct, of course. The column did not state it as fact, but as a possibility, an allegation, a rumour – which is correct, as is evident from some of the stories that the newspaper referred me to.
The column reads that Da Gama “is said not to be in the good books of new club chairman Floyd Mbele”.
PS complains that this is not true.
Sunday Sun refers me to six stories to prove that there were rumours of a strained relationship between Da Gama and Mbele. It denies that the column was malicious and argues that the statement was not presented as fact, but as a rumour.
Some of these stories do indeed refer to rumours of tension between the two. I also take into account that the column did not present the matter in dispute as fact – Da Gama was “said not to be” (emphasis added) in Mbele’s good books.
This does not mean that this rumour is true.
The sentence in dispute read: “The worst news last week was that there have been allegations of interference in the technical team in their previous five matches.” The column also stated that general manager Jason Raine said there will be changes in the technical team. It adds that, when Da Gama heard about this, he “blew his gasket and started talking openly about acts of interference in the team”.
PS denies that this was true.
Sunday Sun says that Da Gama, who provided the information, was a reliable source of information. It argues that the column presented it as an allegation by Da Gama, and not as fact.
The newspaper also refers me to four articles to show that this allegation has been widely reported.
As this is correct, and the column makes it clear that the matter in dispute was an allegation and not fact, I can (again) not fault the journalist.
No right of reply
Mbele complains that the newspaper did not give him a right of reply.
The newspaper says that Mpete spoke to Raine on March 1 and he also sought comment from Da Gama – both of whom were holding key and responsible decisions in PS. It also refers me to an SMS message from the journalist to Mbele on the same date, stating “Can we talk chairman for a few secs, M Mpete” – to which the journalist says he never got a reply.
It concludes: “Therefore Platinum Stars were given a reasonable right of reply.”
The complaint is dismissed.
Please note that our Complaints Procedures lay down that within seven days of receipt of this decision, either party may apply for leave to appeal to the Chairperson of the SA Press Appeals Panel, Judge Ralph Zulman, fully setting out the grounds of appeal. He can be contacted at Khanyim@ombudsman.org.za.
Deputy Press Ombudsman