HomeInsightsIndependent Press Standards Organisation rejects complaint by Wayne Rooney against Daily Mail

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Wayne Rooney complained to IPSO that the Daily Mail had breached Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Rooney’s lad, 7, trains with City!”, published on 16 December 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney is taking son Kai, age seven, for training sessions with neighbours Manchester City!”.

Wayne Rooney said that publication of the fact Kai had attended the Manchester City Academy was an unwarranted intrusion into his son’s privacy. He said that judgments as to which photographs to publish should be taken by a child’s parents, not newspapers. The publication of information relating to his son’s attendance at the training academy created a risk of bullying at school, and placed the child under needless additional pressure in relation to his involvement in a highly competitive sporting arena. He said that it had resulted in increased attention from paparazzi, including photographers waiting outside of both Manchester United and Manchester City academies. It also raised potential child protection issues.

The Committee found that, regardless of the decision by Mr Rooney and his wife to disclose certain information about their son to the public, they retained their rights, as his parents, to choose not to disclose certain other pieces of information about him. However, the large amount of information about Kai in the public domain formed part of the context in which the Committee assessed the effect of the newspaper’s disclosures.

The Committee considered whether the publication of the article posed an unnecessary intrusion into Kai’s time at school. In doing so, the Committee considered specifically whether the alleged intrusion arose out of a failure, or the part of the newspaper, to show appropriate respect for Kai’s private and school life.

The Committee noted the limited detail that was published: the article reported simply that Kai had attended Manchester City Academy. The minimal further comment was complimentary and focused on his perceived ability as a young player rather than any aspect of his personal development. It appeared to pre-empt potential criticism of Kai by explaining that it was not unusual for a young player to attend a number of academies.

The article did not contain further details or speculation in relation to or other aspects of Kai’s life. In addition, the article did not seek to use Kai’s attendance as a criticism of his father or otherwise seek to embarrass the child or the family.

The Committee noted that there was already in the public domain with Mr Rooney’s consent a large quantity of information that connected Kai to his father’s career and specifically to Manchester United, including his involvement as a mascot for the club. Mr Rooney’s wife had also discussed the child’s interest in football, albeit in very general terms. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the child had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the bare fact of his attendance at the academy, and it did not find that the publication of this information constituted an intrusion into his time at school, such as to raise a breach of Clause 6.

As for whether the publication had used Mr Rooney’s fame as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life, the Committee did not consider that this piece of information constituted a detail of the child’s private life. As such, there was no breach of the Code on this point.

As it had found no breach of Clause 6, the Committee was not required to consider formally the Daily Mail’s argument in relation to the public interest in favour of publication. Nevertheless, it took the opportunity to note that any public interest in the story fell far short of the standard required to justify a breach of a child’s privacy. The complaint was not upheld. 14261-16 Rooney v The Daily Mail (19 April 2017) — to read the decision in full, click here.