Autor

Andi Terziu

Senior Associate

Read More
Autor

Andi Terziu

Senior Associate

Read More

19. März 2024

How footballers can protect their privacy and reputation: the Beckham documentary series

  • Quick read

The recent David Beckham documentary series on Netflix was undoubtedly an enjoyable recap of Becks' stellar career. However, the documentary also highlighted that with the limelight focused on footballers as they gain success, many may face a multitude of reputational and privacy issues. This is especially the case in the current age of social media, when football fans crave instant access into all information about everything that is (even vaguely) football related, and the media are more than happy to quench that thirst. 

Being a famous footballer, however, does not mean that you cannot do anything to protect your or your family's privacy and/or reputation. The key is to take proactive action as quickly as possible to prevent or quickly stop any intrusion or unwanted spread of information. Beckham was undoubtedly well advised by lawyers and public relations advisers throughout his career, but that is not to say that other footballers cannot learn from issues that have dogged him, many of which were highlighted in the documentary series. If faced with similar issues, footballers may wish to take some of the following practical steps. 

Birth of a child

As shown in the documentary series, when David Beckham's wife, Victoria, was leaving London's Portland Hospital after giving birth to their first son Brooklyn, she instantly encountered the paparazzi who followed her and her baby around. From that point onwards, many pictures of Brooklyn were taken using long lens cameras, during his early childhood.

To avoid a similar situation, when a footballer in the limelight is expecting a child, they may wish to consider instructing specialist media lawyers to write to the media generally and put the media on notice of their desire to keep their child's information private by, for example, pixelating the child's face when publishing photos of their family in public. 

Moreover, to protect a child's privacy, you may wish to avoid putting information in the public domain or openly posting photos on social media. Doing so will only erode the child's privacy. If information about the child is to be shared with close friends and family, it should only be done so privately. You should also ask those you share information with not to openly post photos or details of the child openly online. It is advisable to put in place Non-Disclosure Agreements with household staff and other employees who will regularly be around the child so as to further protect the child's privacy contractually.

Media crisis

Beckham faced many media crises in his career, not least the media vilification he faced after being sent off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. He clearly succeeded in turning things around, but what are the practical steps you can take if caught in similar situations? 

Firstly, you should put in place a consistent communications strategy that can respond to negative issues that you are faced with. With the help of PR advisers and/or specialist media lawyers, you should prepare a cohesive statement that can be deployed to the media who approach for comment. Putting your story across is, in most cases, helpful to changing the narrative that is being written about you.

Secondly, with the help of your advisers, consider whether there is action that can be taken in relation to the underlying issue which has given rise to the media crisis: is there anything you can do to mitigate any public relations' damage that is being caused by tackling the underlying issue?

Thirdly, with the help of your PR advisers, try to change your overall media image by encouraging reporting of less well-known positive stories that may have been drowned by the negative issues.

Lastly, you should instruct specialist media lawyers to engage with the media in order to try and limit the types of damaging allegations that are being published. 

Relationships

The Beckham documentary series reflected on the impact that allegations of extra-marital affairs had on Beckham and his wife. Whether true or not, information about intimate relationships is usually private.

If the media is threatening to publish your private information you might be able to apply for an injunction to stop the media from doing so. Such application might be able to be made under anonymity.

Issues become more complicated when the other party to a relationship is willing to sell a 'kiss-and-tell' story. However, a party's right to tell their story does not automatically prevail over the other's right to privacy. One should seek specialist legal advice in order to assess their position.

Our team

There is obviously a larger array of reputational and privacy issues that a footballer who is in the media limelight can face during, or even after their playing career. Our specialist team of reputation and privacy protection lawyers has experience in dealing with all types of reputation and privacy related issues that you might face. Contact our team to discuss how we could help.

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