Reporting on arrests and legal issues is different from the other types of stories you’ll find on Athleticism. They’re often incredibly short, for example, and noticeably light on detail.
We understand this can be confusing. And we understand you might have questions.
But for “legal reasons” — a frustratingly vague explanation, which we’ll try to explain in more detail below — these reports never include the ability to leave a comment. Very often you come into contact with us or our writers on social media.
We can’t always answer everyone, so we want to explain why we write these stories the way we do.
The reality of football is that it is very difficult to keep anything private, especially in the age of social media. But there are laws about what we can and cannot report. These laws may perhaps seem anachronistic. But it is essential that responsible publishers, including Athleticismrespect them.
That’s why we report these stories the way we do.
Why Athleticism not to name the arrested players?
We never “decide” not to name an arrested person – we are not legally able to do so.
In the UK, arrested suspects have a right to privacy until the police see fit to charge them. In effect, the indictment is the point in the legal process when the courts have decided that the allegations have sufficient merit to warrant tying someone to them.
Prior to this, the courts consider that there is no “public interest” in why someone is under investigation or arrested.
It’s different from how the rules work in the US, which understandably confused some of our readers on both sides of the pond. We will come back to this in more detail later.
So when do you name them?
When we are legally permitted to do so. This is usually when the individual has been charged.
On rare occasions, it is legally acceptable to name someone before they are charged – for example, if they spoke about the situation themselves or if their arrest was very public.
But otherwise, naming someone before they are charged is legally and ethically irresponsible.
Why have I seen a name mentioned repeatedly on social media or in other posts?
Let’s start with social media.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time on social media to find people speculating on who has or hasn’t been arrested.
But anyone who names an individual as part of a criminal investigation risks breaking the law.
People who are under investigation or who have been arrested almost always have a right to privacy until they are charged with an offense — and that doesn’t just apply to media like Athleticism.
Social media users can also be sued for breaches of privacy, although identifying the person behind the profile is often much more difficult than holding a media company to account.
Other publications may treat the stories differently from Athleticism for different reasons. The most common is that they are located in a different jurisdiction, so they are bound by completely different laws.
Why do you provide some details and not others?
When we are not allowed to identify someone for legal reasons, we take great care not to do so.
This does not only apply to those who have been arrested. It also applies to victims of sexual offences, for example, as well as children involved in court cases. In these cases, we do our best to protect this right to anonymity.
But there are still general, non-identifying details that we can responsibly disclose without identifying anyone.
Unnecessarily, there’s no list of what’s allowed and what’s not, which is why rival news outlets covering the same story can end up with subtly different reports with different details.
That’s why a 26-year-old Premier League footballer arrested in Birmingham on suspicion of sexual assault, to use a purely hypothetical example, could be described as a ’20s’ footballer arrested in the Midlands.
Otherwise, our reporting could lead not only to an invasion of the arrested player’s privacy, but also to potentially defamatory speculation around any other 26-year-old Premier League footballers who attend Birmingham – which would likely be a fairly small number.
Why do you disable comments?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions on social media when we post a story that does not offer our followers the opportunity to comment.
There are a few different reasons. As a responsible editor, we will always disable commenting on stories where what we can report is limited, out of respect for those involved.
We will also disable comments on stories that involve a live trial.
This is because commenters can inadvertently identify people they shouldn’t. Or they could comment on whether someone on trial is guilty or not, which would be a breach of UK contempt laws, potentially jeopardizing a trial by publishing harmful information.
In its most serious form, contempt can even lead to the failure of an entire trial.
Why is your US coverage often so different from your UK football reporting?
That’s a very good question. To Athleticismwe are fortunate to have a truly international audience, with a readership often evenly split between the UK and the US.
But the rules on defamation, confidentiality and contempt of court are all very different in the US and the UK. This often means that articles we publish in the UK that involve the UK legal system are subject to different legal rules.
The clearest example of this is the coverage of arrests. In the United States, the arrests are common knowledge. This means that individuals can be identified as soon as they are arrested.
As explained in more detail above, this is not the case in the UK.
US laws naturally apply to UK citizens while in the country – and vice versa.
For this reason, stories about US law issues may appear to contain much more detail than stories published in the UK. It has nothing to do with a different set of editorial standards, but rather an entirely different legal framework.
(Photo: Nicolo Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)