England and Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand has failed in his bid to prevent the media reporting that he had a 13-year relationship with an interior designer.
A high court judge ruled that while the designer's motives may have been "less than noble" he was satisfied there was a public interest in the publication of the "kiss and tell" story.
Mr Ferdinand had sought £50,000 damages following the publication of a story under the headline, "My affair with England captain Rio". He had argued it was a "gross invasion" of his privacy and demanded the court impose a worldwide gagging order on the designer and the media to prevent them repeating the claims.
But Mr Justice Nicol ruled in favour of the Sunday Mirror, which had published the report on 25 April 2010, on the grounds that there was a public interest in the behaviour of England football captains. The footballer now faces a legal bill of £500,000 – or less than five weeks' pay.
The article claimed that Mr Ferdinand, who has a wife and three children, ended his relationship with Carly Storey within days of being appointed England captain in February 2010. Ms Storey, portrayed in the paper as the footballer's "dirty little secret" for 13 years, had been paid £16,000 for her version of events.
"Overall, in my judgment, the balancing exercise favours the defendant's right of freedom of expression over the claimant's right of privacy," said the judge. "At one level it was a 'kiss and tell' story. Even less attractively, it was a 'kiss and paid for telling' story, but stories may be in the public interest even if the reasons behind the informant providing the information are less than noble."
Of the captaincy he said: "It was a job that carried an expectation of high standards. In the views of many, the captain was expected to maintain those standards off, as well as on, the pitch."
Tina Weaver, the Sunday Mirror editor said: "The judge found there was a justified public interest in reporting the off-pitch behaviour of the then England captain. We are pleased the judge ruled that Mr Ferdinand had perpetuated a misleading public image."
Mr Ferdinand was refused leave to appeal but it is an option still open to him. The law firm Simons Muirhead & Burton said on the footballer's behalf that he intends to do so.Reuse content