Zola wins libel case against BBC

West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola and assistant Steve Clarke accepted undisclosed libel damages from the BBC today over a report they were planning to move to Chelsea.

During a BBC radio program in February, journalist Harry Harris alleged the pair — who had both played at Chelsea — had gone to an interview with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich about becoming the management team for the 2009-10 season.

James Quartermaine, the lawyer representing Zola and Clarke, told London's High Court that the two were — and remained — under contract to West Ham. He said for them to have attended an unauthorised interview would have constituted a breach of contract and, in Zola's case, FA Premier League rules.

"It was understandably feared that it would damage their relationship with their employers and with the players and fans of West Ham United," Quartermaine said.

Quartermaine said the BBC had accepted the allegation was wrong, and had agreed to pay Zola and Clarke damages and legal costs.

The BBC's lawyer, David Carrington, said the corporation did not endorse Harris' comments and apologised for any distress caused.